Headshot of James Burba (Hospitality Business '77), the 2020 Spartan Champion awardee

James Burba (B.A. Hospitality Business ’77)

In January, students, faculty and staff from The School of Hospitality Business traveled to Los Angeles for the 2020 Americas Lodging and Investment Summit. The event, hosted by the American Hotel and Lodging Association on Jan. 26–29, offered industry seminars and networking opportunities in the largest industry gathering in the world. ALIS was founded almost 20 years ago by Broad College alumnus James Burba (B.A. Hospitality Business ’77).

For the past 13 years, The School of Hospitality Business has hosted an annual reception at ALIS, welcoming hundreds of alumni and honoring a few. This year’s reception was a special occasion, recognizing Burba with the 2020 Hospitality Business Spartan Champion Award.

“When I learned about the award, my first reaction was that it should be given to someone more deserving,” Burba said. “After letting the news settle in, I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for being called out and acknowledged by such a world-class university and business school.” He added that it felt especially good coming from “the greatest hotel school on the planet.”

The Spartan Champion Award was created to honor alumni who are devoted supporters of The School of Hospitality Business. The award is not given annually, and only six other individuals have received it. The honoree is described as “a public champion, staunch backer, proponent and advocate for The School of Hospitality Business.”

“This is only the seventh time in our school’s 93-year history that we will recognize a Spartan Champion,” Lena Loeffler, head of alumni relations and engagement for The School of Hospitality Business, said. “Jim is in great company and very deserving of this recognition.”

Since graduating from MSU, Burba has established himself as a leading name in the hospitality investment industry, cofounding the Burba Hotel Network. Through this network, he has organized several of the most respected and attended events and conferences of the industry.

In addition to his work in the hotel investment industry, Burba is a respected producer in the entertainment industry. He produced the film Space Station 76, which premiered at SXSW in 2014, and the 2016 Broadway musical Disaster!

Throughout his career success, Burba has remained a devoted supporter of his alma mater. He serves on the advisory council for the Real Estate Investment Management minor at The School of Hospitality Business and was also an early contributor to the department’s ongoing Hilton Lecture Series, which began 30 years ago.

“I love the word connecting, and it’s one of the reasons I am passionate about the hotel industry,” Burba said. He told a story of how he connected with Suzy Kindel, a Spartan alumna in Southern California, and other fellow Spartans; through these interactions, Burba was able to secure several jobs immediately after graduation.

“If I can help a future leader with advice, direction or by helping to open a door like Suzy did for me, that is a pretty terrific outcome,” he said.