FIU, Women’s Hospitality Initiative partner to launch groundbreaking hospitality leadership course

Chef Michelle Bernstein, Chef Lorena Garcia, and Ernisha Randolph of Sweet Butter Hospitality among well-known list of speaker

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As part of its ongoing commitment to advance opportunity and remove barriers for future women leaders, the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has partnered with the Women’s Hospitality Initiative (WHI) to implement WHI’s groundbreaking academic course, “From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership for Women in Hospitality.”

The for-credit course, which examines the challenges and paths to success for women leaders in the hospitality and restaurant industries, will be offered in Spring 2021, beginning on January 11.

“Florida International University has long been at the forefront for hospitality education, and that is because we are constantly reassessing and updating our curriculum to meet the moment,” said Chaplin School’s Vice Dean Diann Newman. “Statistics show that women hold only eight percent of hospitality leadership positions. This partnership with Women’s Hospitality Initiative will ensure that our students – 69 percent of whom are female – will emerge from this course with the knowledge, capabilities, and confidence needed to compete in today’s business climate and become the future women leaders of this industry.”

“From the Classroom to the Boardroom” will be taught by Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Assistant Professor Lisa Cain. Cain is an author of two hospitality textbooks, current assistant editor for the International Hospitality Review, and vice president for the Southeast, Central and South American section of the International Council on Hotel Restaurants and Institutional Education.

“With this course, we will be able to provide new value and perspective to junior and senior-level students who are on the verge of pursuing post-graduate leadership positions,” Cain said. “The lessons they learn will be vital as they compete for job opportunities or decide to pursue paths of entrepreneurship. I am so impressed with everything that Women’s Hospitality Initiative has achieved in such a short time, and I am looking forward to contributing to the success of our students.”

Developed and launched by WHI in partnership with Culinary Institute of America (CIA) School of Business and Management, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ (UNLV) Harrah College of Hospitality, “From the Classroom to the Boardroom” debuted at UNLV in Fall 2020. The course exposes students to an industry-specific business and leadership curriculum, while providing strategies to recognize and eliminate gender and unconscious bias, racism, and other obstacles that hinder the upward mobility of women into leadership and ownership roles.

The centerpiece of “From the Classroom to the Boardroom” is a rotating guest speaker series that incorporates lessons and strategies from today’s top women leaders.

The foundation of the course and the speakers’ topics are based on research and interviews conducted by WHI co-founder Mary Choi Kelly with successful women leaders in the hospitality industry.  The themes from these interviews were identified to create a leadership “Recipe for Success” and roadmap for women in the industry that can be applied at all levels – high school, university students and mid-career.

Issues that are core to the advancement and development of women in leadership are addressed by the guest speakers and include topics such as: leadership branding, emotional intelligence, navigating politics and power dynamics, building relationships, networks and allies, as well as building an inclusive team culture – all from the perspective of women leaders.

The slate of speakers and topics include Chef Michelle Bernstein and renowned restaurateur Elizabeth Blau discussing topics such as: Navigating Politics and Power Dynamics, Defining Your Personal Leadership Brand, and The Business Case for Women in Leadership. Speakers will be available to view live on the FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management Facebook page. For a full list of speakers, topics and times, please visit the FIU academic calendar. Speakers include:

  • Jan. 11 – Mary Choi Kelly, MCK Leadership and WHI
    Defining Your Personal Leadership Brand
  • Jan. 25 – Elizabeth Blau, Blau + Associates and WHI
    The Business Case for Women in Leadership
  • Feb. 1 – Ernisha Randolph, Sweet Butter Hospitality
    Building a Team, Team Dynamics and Transitioning from Peer to Leader
  • Feb. 8 – Chef Michelle Bernstein
    The Importance of Continuous Improvement
  • Feb. 15 – Jenna Swigert, Open Table
    Alex Lourdes PhD, Café Lola and Saint Honoré Doughnuts & Beignets
    Leveraging Social Media to Build a Business in the Restaurant Industry
  • Feb. 22 – Corrine Clement, DEI Institute
    Punam Mathur, Executive Director, Elaine Wynn & Family Foundation
    Understanding Unconscious Bias and EQ
  • Mar. 1 – Olivia Brown, Heritage Consulting by B+R, LLC
    Building Relationships, Networks, and Allies
  • Mar. 8 – Chef Lorena Garcia, CHICA
    Redefining the Kitchen Culture to Build Inclusion
  • Mar. 15 – Joanna James, Zoel Productions
    A Conversation with the Producer of A Fine Line
  • Mar. 22 – Cristina SP Hudson, Hudson Ranch
    Building a Career in Hospitality
  • Mar. 29 – Bertha González Nieves, Tequila Casa Dragones
    Lee Brian Schrager, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
    Navigating Politics and Power Dynamics

“FIU is one of the top hospitality schools in the country, so we are incredibly grateful to have the support of such prominent women,” said Women’s Hospitality Initiative Co-Founder Elizabeth Blau. “We’ve had great success with our first class of students at UNLV and CIA, and now we look to continue to achieve the same success in Florida and ultimately on a national level. It has been such a positive experience working with Dr. Cain, Associate Dean Newman, and FIU leadership. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these graduates.”


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