They didn’t just come for the basketball.  Yes, Marriott executives Dave Grissen and Jim Kauffman, who visited MSU Monday, February 18 and Tuesday, February 19, had the rare opportunity to watch Monday’s practice AND the pivotal men’s basketball game against IU, compliments of Steve Wickens, owner of three Marriott properties in the Detroit area.  But they were on campus to meet with the students in The School of Hospitality Business, strengthening once again the close relationship between Marriott International, Inc. and The School.

An MSU economics major who graduated in 1977, Jim is the president, U.S. and Canada Division for Full Service with Marriott International.  The campus visit was his third in two years.  Jim represented the company at the grand opening last year of The School’s J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation Culinary Business Learning Lab and returned a few months later to speak in classes and yes, attend a men’s basketball game!  With Marriott since he graduated, he has worked in a number of management positions around the nation.  He serves on The School’s Alumni Association Executive Board, and on the Board of the Farmer School of Business at Miami University (Ohio).

Dave majored in finance at MSU and then earned a master’s degree from Loyola University in Chicago.  After 25 years with Marriott, he is now group president, The Americas.  He has served with the company in various executive positions, and is now responsible for the financial management and leadership of all the Americas’ lodging operations, including more than 3,200 hotels and a workforce of 100,000.  He is chair of the Americas’ Hotel Development Committee and a member of the Lodging Strategy Group and Corporate Growth Committee.  Dave also serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors for Back on My Feet, an organization that helps individuals experiencing homelessness.

The leaders spoke in Joel Heberlein’s HB 237 – Management of Lodging Systems class on Monday evening; on Tuesday, they presented in Dr.  Bonnie Knutson’s graduate-level HB 875 – Marketing in the Hospitality Industry and Dr. Jeff Beck’s HB 476 – Advanced Marketing in Lodging.

Also on Tuesday, Dave and Jim had a roundtable discussion and lunch with selected student leaders and enjoyed a meeting with Broad College of Business Dean Stefanie Lenway.  Then there was that game. . .

Jim and Dave intrigued the students with tales of their own days on campus – Jim living in Akers Hall and working as a bellman at a hotel in Lansing, and choosing the hotel business over going to law school.  Dave on the other hand spent his MSU career working as a bartender, and entered the hospitality industry right after graduating.

They discussed Marriott’s humble beginnings 85 years ago as a 9-seat rootbeer stand in Washington, DC, and noted the founders’, J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott, philosophy: “If you take good care of your associates, they’ll take good care of your customers and the customers will come back.”

The company grew and expanded to a wide range of segments (airline catering, amusement parks, cruise ships), but now is solely focused on management and franchising Marriott Hotels across the globe.

The students learned about Marriott’s 18 brands, as well as the brands’ architecture, including luxury, lifestyle/collections, signature, modern essentials, extended stay, and vacation clubs/destination entertainment.  And Dave and Jim shared Marriott’s long term strategies in terms of marketing to the dominant customer segment in the coming years, the millenials, and what that means for Marriott’s efforts in the areas of technology and website retail sales.

Jim said that leaders “put together a great strategy and execute it.”  He urged the students to “be energized by hospitality.  Get some experience while you’re still in college.”  And Dave encouraged them to use “common sense and clear thinking.  There are opportunities in the industry for all.”

During their visit, Dave and Jim were designated “Spartan Leaders” by Dr. Ron Cichy, director of The School. “Our students are fortunate to have leaders the caliber of Jim and Dave come to campus and give their time and insight,” he says. “It’s an extra bonus that they are also Spartan alumni who represent MSU so well in the industry.”

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