Students in The School of Hospitality Business at MSU attended the Southern Lodging Summit in Memphis last August, accompanied by Professor A.J. Singh, Hilton Hotels Fellow in The School. Now in its 14th year, the SLS is presented by Pinkowski and Company and by the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel & Lodging Association. It is an annual gathering of hoteliers specializing in development and operations in the southern United States, this year featuring keynote speaker and distinguished hospitality professional, Fred Kleisner (BA ’66). Fred is an alumnus of The School, a member of its Real Estate Investment Management Advisory Council, and its 2004 Industry Leader of the Year.
Alex Salens (BA ‘18) is president of The School’s Real Estate Investment Club, and Audrey Koutney (BA ‘18) is vice president. Both were invited by Chuck Pinkowski, also a member of The School’s Real Estate Investment Management Advisory Council, to volunteer at the Conference and to attend its educational and networking sessions.
In addition to helping with registration and attending professional sessions, the students had many opportunities to learn about hotel development and meet with industry professionals. They even got a private tour from MSU Alumnus Susan Bachman (BA ‘86) of the Hilton Tru model, set up at the conference, as well as Hilton’s operational headquarters.
The students described the keynote speech by Fred Kleisner (BA ’66) as the Summit’s “highlight,” saying, “He captivated the entire room. Company executives and presidents turned their chairs around to better capture every word he said about where the industry stands in the current cycle. He noted, ‘We are at a plateau, but there is a fog as to where the end may actually be.’”
Alex says, “Mr. Kleisner’s career path is inspiring, and he encouraged me to take on greater challenges.”
Both Alex and Audrey were impressed with sessions on “Leading the Market! Staying ahead of the Dining Curve” and “Embracing Change with a Multi-Generational Workforce,” as well as the report produced by Smith Travel Research.
The Southern Lodging Summit was a powerful experience for the students and for Dr. Singh, who says, “I am always proud of our students when they roll up their sleeves and help out at conferences such as the SLS. And we appreciate the opportunity they have to absorb so much important information from industry professionals who are on the front lines of hotel development.”