SHA 2022 Summit Features Cutting-Edge Companies | UB today

Friday BU SHA Hospitality Leadership Summit will always happen in a hotel, not in a flatshare, coworking space or ghost kitchen. But change is in the air.

Most speakers at the School of Hospitality Administration event work in places like Selina and Grill and REEF Technology, instead of the usual hotel chains and restaurant groups. Some of their businesses didn’t exist ten years ago. Even the most established names that will cater to a predominantly student audience represent agents of change – the coworking company We work and GoogleTravel. And SHA’s annual ICON Award, given to industry innovators, goes this year to the three founders of Airbnb, who disrupted the lodging industry with its online marketplace where people around the world rent their homes to travellers.

“We are redefining what the world of hospitality means to us,” says Arun Upneja, Dean of SHA, as the school’s 40th anniversary year draws to a close. “This world is changing very quickly and we have to keep pace with what is happening.”

The difficulties of the pandemic have only accelerated the changes underway in the hospitality industry that reflect the way we live and work in the digital age. The evolution of the summit, which is being held at the Commonwealth Hotel in Kenmore Square, is very intentional.

“It sends a very clear and unambiguous signal that we are plugged in and moving in step with what is happening in our society, in our industry,” says Upneja. “In fact, we want to be an organization that thinks about what will happen in the future and prepares our students for it.”

Selina is a fast-growing hotel brand serving remote workers and other travelers in 20 countries. Toast, based across the river in Cambridge, offers a cloud-based restaurant and point-of-sale management system that runs on Android. Reef Technologies transforms existing spaces, such as parking lots, into logistics hubs such as “ghost kitchens” – delivery-only facilities for existing restaurants.

These companies and others represented at the summit “live by a start-up mentality, and they have an innovative mindset, and they are agile and can respond faster,” the Summit chair said. Leora Lanz (COM’87), SHA Professor of Practice and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.

ICON Award Goes to Airbnb Co-Founders Brian Chesky, CEO, Nathan Blecharczyk, Chief Strategy Officer, and Joe Gebbia, President of Blecharczyk will accept the award on behalf of Airbnb virtually to wrap up the summit. “Their notable impact sets them apart as visionaries who have innovated the business as they pursue the goal of creating connection and belonging,” says Upneja.

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. Photo courtesy of Airbnb
Portrait of Joe Gebbia, President of, wearing a black suit jacket and gray t-shirt.  He is a white man with blue eyes, short, dirty blond hair and a trimmed beard.  The background is a neutral gray.
Joe Gebbia, president of Photo courtesy of Airbnb

“Airbnb was founded for guests to experience the world in a more authentic and connected way,” says Blecharczyk. “Similarly, BU SHA expands the world of hospitality by focusing on creating memorable experiences. We are extremely grateful to have the opportunity to connect with future leaders who are so passionate about the industry. »

Airbnb was born in 2007 with three guests in a San Francisco home and has since grown to over four million hosts and over a billion guest arrivals in nearly every country in the world. The hosts offer unique stays and unique activities.

“Even though people have been staying with their friends for thousands of years – it’s not a new concept – they’ve expressed it and demonstrated it in a way that has transformed travel,” Lanz says., an independent nonprofit, is dedicated to making temporary stays easier for people in times of crisis – most recently, a commitment to provide free short-term housing for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.

SHA is working with Airbnb to plan a visit from the Founders in the fall, possibly as part of a Dean’s Emeritus Lecture event.

Of course, the traditional hospitality industry is going nowhere. Many SHA graduates will still begin their careers at hotel chains like Marriott or Hilton or at food service provider Aramark. The school administration is particularly excited about an ongoing relationship with last year’s ICON winner, restaurateur Danny Meyer, and his Union Square Hotel Group, which hosted Lanz and 30 graduate students for an immersive three-day experience at their New York offices over spring break. Union Square even interviewed several students for potential internships or full-time jobs.

Photo of legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer speaking to a group of SHA graduate students at the New York offices of his Union Square Hospitality Group during spring break.  Photo taken from behind the students, who are looking towards the front of the room where a projected slide reads "Diana Getchius, Director of Human Resources." Meyer is on the right in a vest and speaks and gestures with his hands.
Legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer speaking to a group of SHA graduate students at the New York offices of his Union Square Hospitality Group during spring break. Photo of Phoenix Nguyen

SHA is branching out with a mastery concentration in senior living and study areas like sporting events and high-end retail, recognizing, as Upneja puts it, that “any part of the business landscape where interactions people are important, that’s where we want to be.” So the Summit just shows how pervasive change is.

“When we started 40 years ago, we were a hotel and restaurant management program,” says Lanz. “We are so much more than that today.”

The one-day Summit is being held in person for the first time since 2019. The 2020 event at the start of the pandemic was canceled, but last year’s Summit, which was held virtually, has attracted 500 connections.

Instead of speeches or panel discussions, the Summit program includes short TED-talk type presentations by:

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