From the Director

For students, faculty, administrators, and the Pillsbury Institute alike, the close of the academic year is often an odd mix of frenzied activity and quiet reflection. This year is no exception. In just the last several weeks, Pillsbury has successfully conducted two industry roundtables and two speed networking events; hosted close to a dozen Entrepreneurs in Residence; and sponsored a two-day competition in which students were challenged to come up with innovative uses in the hospitality industry for a humanoid (and adorable) robot, Pepper. These activities, some of which are featured in more detail below, were just part of the many programs the institute carried on throughout the year.

Aside from all the activity, this time of year is also one of reflection, particularly this year, as Pillsbury celebrates its tenth anniversary. On a personal level, I am once again filled with a sense of pride and, well, awe at the incredible accomplishments of our current and former students, just a few of whom are featured herein. It truly is a privilege to teach, mentor, critique, and support them in their many entrepreneurial efforts. 

Equally impressive is the impact that the Pillsbury Institute has had in its ten short years in existence. During that time, the institute has been a driving force in developing and formalizing the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the Hotel School and at Cornell. While the school has long had entrepreneurship in its DNA, the Pillsbury Institute has played a key role in encouraging that nascent culture to develop into a full curriculum supported by year-round programming that helps translate classroom learning into real world experience. The impact on students from these efforts cannot be emphasized enough. While it may not always be apparent to those of you who support the institute from afar, it is clear to those of us on the front lines. A week does not go by without me hearing from a current student or recent alumni that participating in a competition, meeting with an inspiring alumni, taking a course, learning a lesson, surviving a tough assignment, or some other aspect of the entrepreneurship offerings at the Hotel School “changed me” or “changed my life.” 

Importantly, I also reflect on the fact that this curriculum and programming, which serves students from across the university, could not happen without the support of entrepreneurial alumni, industry leaders, expert faculty, and exceptional staff. Thank you for the continuously generous support that so many of you have provided this year to both the Pillsbury Institute and our students. As we look ahead to next year, I hope that we will see many of you in person, perhaps at one of our two recurring competitions (the PitchDeck Competition and the Hospitality Business Plan Competition), as an Entrepreneur in Residence, as a guest speaker in class, at a speed-networking event, at a roundtable, or in a Pillsbury board meeting. If there is a way to get you involved, we welcome it.

One final note: as I took on the role of Interim Director of the Pillsbury Institute this semester, I have been particularly grateful for the support of Michelle Ciaschi, our new assistant program manager. She is assisted by Erica Heim—program manager, and Leslee Kane—administrative assistant. For those of you that don’t know Michelle, Erica, and Leslee, I encourage you to stop by and say hello to them next time you are on campus. 

Susan Fleming, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Interim Academic Director of the Pillsbury Institute for
Hospitality Entrepreneurship (PIHE) and Hospitality Business Plan Competition Faculty Sponsor