The 180: Fostering diversity in the hospitality industry

By: The 180
Photo of six women at a reception
Alumni of color, members of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, and faculty gather for Hotelie weekend in NYC. Pictured left to right: Crystal Thomas ’08, a prospective Baker student, Shynise Stiff ’14 (Dyson), hospitality professional Kira West ’15 (A&S, business minor), Abi Dandapani ’21, and Jada Robinson ’18.

By Daiki Tsunoda ’20

In the past, individuals who have held managerial positions within the hospitality industry have been predominantly homogeneous. In more recent years, we’ve seen the industry become more diverse. People with diverse backgrounds are now aiming for, and taking on, leadership positions—previously, management roles were not even considered a possibility for some.

Photo of a group of people in the Statler Hotel lobby
Alumna Stacy Delapenha ’14 met with Hotel School students of color to talk about internships and career options. Top row, left to right: Austin Sagan ’18, Cristian Giron ’18, Jada Robinson ’18, Miguel Brotons ’20, Anita Zhao ’20, Shavonnie Victor ’20, and Elise Mun 18; bottom row, left to right: Amanda Chueh ’20, DJ Singleton ’19, Stacey Delapenha ’14, Valerie Guzman ’21, and Renee Wu ’21

The Hotel School’s Engagement and Inclusion (E&I) Programs seek to help influence and change the industry’s status quo through recruitment, retention, and graduation of a diverse student population. Such efforts not only help individuals with diverse backgrounds find success in the industry, but it also helps the undergraduate class as a whole by introducing diversity inside and outside the classroom in many forms.

While there are many E&I initiatives, one of the biggest programs the office overlooks and advises is the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). First founded in 1989 by four Hotelies, NSMH is a national, non-profit professional organization that is run by students.

Photo of a group in elegant clothing
The Cornell National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH) chapter at the 29th Annual National Conference in Chicago

NSMH aims to educate and support its members throughout their undergraduate years and during the recruitment process. Advocating for the presence of such a society encourages students to be proud of their diverse backgrounds and openly talk about issues regarding diversity in the hospitality industry.

Photo of six people outside at the Jamboree event
Hotelies at the NSMH Hilltop Jamboree fundraiser for United Way of Tompkins County
Photo of a group of students holding a large check outside United Way
Some members of Cornell’s NSMH chapter present a check to the United Way of Tompkins County their fundraising event

Although most E&I programs are for undergraduate students, the Hotel School emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion among its entire community. For instance, while not directly affiliated with E&I, the Hotel School offers an executive education course on diversity within the Professional Development Program. Targeted toward individuals who want to learn about managing and including diversity in their company, the course teaches executives how stereotypes lead to inefficient performance and how to become an inclusive leader.

While some may underestimate the importance of an inclusive community, such an environment is beneficial because it enables students to become inclusive and effective leaders by the time they enter the workforce. The Hotel School’s E&I Programs help students obtain a wider perspective on issues.

Photo of a group of people sitting around a table
Cornell NSMH coffee chat with Mark Thompson ’08, founder of Harlem Coffee Co

While E&I programming has benefitted students greatly, there is more work to be done—the student body can still benefit from more diversity among their peers. In the coming years, Hotelies should strive to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry.

About Daiki Tsunoda ’20

Headshot of Daiki Tsunoda

Daiki Tsunoda, a native of Tokyo, Japan, is a copy writer for The 180. He was introduced to the publication through one of the board members and was intrigued about the idea of reviving a yearbook, which used to be one of the many traditions in the Hotel School. With the successful launch of the first issue, Daiki is looking forward to further expanding this new tradition.