Alumni are one of the driving forces behind student success at MSU. As a founding member of the Broad College’s real estate advisory committee and a mentor for numerous Broad Spartans in real estate investment, analysis and consulting, Ryan Meliker (MBA ’05), president and co-founder of Lodging Analytics Research and Consulting, is greatly contributing to this driving force.
“Ryan is an incredible spokesperson for the hospitality industry given his command of industry history and performance data, often quoted in national publications and industry periodicals,” Jim Anhut, director of the real estate minor, said. “He makes me proud to be a hospitality business Spartan.”
Honoring his efforts, Meliker received the 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Greater NYC Spartans Club at its 24th annual wine tasting dinner this June.
Despite not going to MSU for his undergraduate education, Meliker landed along the banks of the Red Cedar for his MBA because of his very first manager, who happened to be a passionate Spartan.
“After graduating from my liberal arts education, I knew two things: I loved hospitality business, and I loved skiing. Those two reasons put me into my first job right out of college at a ski resort in Breckenridge, Colorado, where I worked in resort operations and rotated through a variety of management positions,” Meliker said. “The general manager of this property was Joe Shackleton, a Spartan that played basketball for MSU in the early 1970s.”
When Meliker decided to go back to school for a business degree after three years of working, he was supported by Shackleton.
“The catch was that Joe wrote me a reference letter only for MSU because he was that passionate about his alma mater,” he explained. “It was a complete surprise to me, but I am indebted to Joe for his insistence that I go to MSU. Not long after my application came in, I received a call from Dr. Ron Cichy, who was then the director of the School of Hospitality Business. He told me that based on the reference from Joe, the school would offer me a graduate assistantship, in-state tuition and scholarship funds.”
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The support from Shackleton was Meliker’s first exposure to the strong sense of pride that Spartan alumni possess, and he experienced that love firsthand during his time in the MBA program.
He reflected, “While I was in school pursuing my MBA, multiple alumni came back to MSU to speak in classes, especially alumni in hospitality business. Many of them had left a lasting impact on me until this day, such as Jim Petrus, who ran the W Hotels brand for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and John Belden, who was president of Davidson Hospitality Group.
“On many occasions, I would reach out to alumni guest speakers prior to their MSU visits and request to meet them, and I cannot remember a single time they said they didn’t have the time,” he continued. “These senior executives always made time to meet me and offer life and career advice. That really stuck with me — the way they were so willing to help a kid they had never met. One even offered me an internship and a room in his house for the summer.”
These interactions showed Meliker what it truly meant to be a Spartan and that anyone can bond over their love for MSU.
After completing his MBA with a concentration in finance and hospitality business, Meliker was equipped with the right skillset for real estate finance, and he started working in hospitality consulting at HVS International and PwC. Then, his Wall Street career quickly began when he was recruited by the gaming and lodging group at Morgan Stanley.
Meliker’s next career move was to a boutique broker-dealer, where he launched a sell-side real estate investment trust (REIT) and lodging equity research platform and became head of equity research. When the firm was acquired by another broker-dealer, he spent a few years there as a managing director and senior REIT and lodging analyst. Right before founding his company, LARC, Meliker worked at RLJ Lodging Trust as senior vice president of corporate strategy and investor relations.
“Throughout all that time on Wall Street, I had always had the itch to become an entrepreneur, and I am so glad I finally listened to it. I saw a ripe opportunity to fill a gap in the market for hotel data analytics, and I quickly acted on it,” Meliker said.
He started LARC as an analytics-based consulting start-up, providing the hotel and hospitality real estate industry with the best-in-class data they need to make the right investment. LARC uses cutting-edge technology to forecast industry trends with accuracy and transparency.
Meliker was a part of the alumni group that helped pioneer and build the real estate minor in the School of Hospitality Business. He advised students, hired students at his firms and mentored young alumni. In addition, he maintained a close connection to the Financial Markets Institute in the Broad College, offering his Wall Street expertise.
“MSU gave a lot to me, not only in my professional but also personal life. I met my wife, Tosca, in the MBA program, and we have been together ever since. That’s why we both want to give back to MSU.”
The Greater NYC Spartans Club recognized Meliker at its annual fundraising event, which raised $23,000 for the club’s endowed scholarship fund. The evening — hosted at Joanne Trattoria, owned by fellow alumnus Joe Germanotta (B.A. Hospitality Business ’79) — included delicious food, exquisite wines, great networking and the satisfying knowledge that donations help exceptional students from the greater NYC area become future Spartan leaders.
As for advice, Meliker usually urges young alumni to learn as much as possible and be a sponge that absorbs knowledge, he said.
“First, learn and develop skills to be strong in any role. Second, find a mentor who can advocate for your growth and guide your career. And third, keep an open mind, because things always change.”