A bucket list item crossed off

Yesterday, I was able to cross an item off my bucket list.

After four years of traveling to Ithaca, NY in the summer, I earned a Certification in Strategic Management from The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. When I was a student at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia, earning my Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management, I would pour over the Cornell Quarterly Journals, filled with articles on current best practices in the industry.

Four years ago, during a Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) Board meeting, I learned of an opportunity to attend a Masterclass at the hotel school and immediately began the application process. After I finished that first course, I knew I wanted to finish the entire certification. The networking that I have been able to do through the people I have met has been invaluable. It is amazing to sit in a classroom and hear the stories of how others run their businesses around the world. This year, my class consisted of operators from Jamaica, Argentina, Brazil, Kenya, India, Italy, Dubai, Kuwait, Guatemala, and the US. My professor for this course was Ali Kasikci, Regional Managing Director of Belmond, Ltd. (formerly Orient-Express Hotels). His responsibilities include the management of eight properties within the company’s portfolio: El Encanto in Santa Barbara, The Inn at Perry Cabin, Maryland, the iconic ’21’ Club restaurant and bar, New York City, La Samanna, St. Martin, Maroma Resort and Spa, Riviera Maya, Casa de Sierra Navada, San Miguel de Allende, Copacabana Palace and Hotel das Cataratas, Brazil.

These courses take place during three full days of learning – early starts and late evenings. However, there is downtime as well. I was happy to have my friend Heather, General Manager of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Memphis, back in my class again. We were also staying at the same hotel, so had fun getting caught up since last year, and even made it to the Hanger Theatre in Ithaca on the second night, to see their opening-night production of “Around the World in 80 Days”. It was very well done and I’d recommend it as an activity if you are in this area!

The courses I had to take to achieve this certification were Strategic Hospitality Management, Strategic Marketing for Restaurants and Hotels, Strategic Financial Management, and Strategic Leadership in Turbulent Times. Each course was an amazing learning experience for me.


First day of class


The content of the course gave me lots of food for thought – especially for use within my own classroom


Class time with Ali Kasikci


Heather & myself, reunited and enjoying the sunshine at the opening reception after the first day.


Professional Development Participants networking during the opening reception.


Stowe Shoemaker, professor of Strategic Pricing for Hotels: Leveraging Consumer and Marketing Knowledge to Enhance Revenue, Heather, myself, and Ali Kasikci, professor of Strategic Leadership in Turbulent Times


There were many questions and discussions


Professor Kasikci was a wealth of knowledge


Heather’s group, presenting on best practices for performance reviews, and how the process can be improved.


Myself and Richard. He is the Director of Food & Beverage for Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean. We were finding new ways to improve internal communication.


Opening night reception at the Hanger Theatre in Ithaca for their play, “Around the World in 80 Days”


The view from my hotel room at the Hilton Garden Inn, Ithaca. It is such a beautiful setting.


I loved this slide.


Receiving my Certification in Strategic Management


Heather & I were the only two in our class to receive our full certifications this session. Hers is in Strategic Financial Management for Hotels.


Can’t wait to hang this!


And my course certificate.


Heather & I enjoyed a celebratory dinner at Moosewood Restaurant before saying our goodbyes.

I am so thankful to TIANS and to my family for enabling and encouraging me to pursue and complete this dream. During class, we were asked, “Have you done anything in the past three years that you will talk about for the rest of your life?”

The answer for me is yes.

I completed a certification in Strategic Management from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University.


Higher Education

Staff & faculty at NSCC Pictou Campus are buzzing with excitement today as we prepare for Convocation tomorrow (June 21st). We’ll have close to 275 graduates crossing the stage beginning at 11:00 AST. Our son Alex has the honour of singing O Canada at the beginning of the ceremony, in English, French, and Mi’Kmaq, and he will sign it with American Sign Language at the same time. The ceremony will be live-streamed via webcast. If you are interested in watching,  you can click on the following link:

NSCC Pictou Campus Graduation

In other exciting news, I just received word that I’ll be attending my third course at Cornell University (Strategic Financial Management for Hotels) during the first week of July, moving me one step closer to completing my certification in Strategic Hospitality Management. I am so thankful to the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Canada Opportunites Agency for this opportunity!

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence,
regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

~Vince Lombardi


On the Road Again!

I’m writing this post from Bangor, Maine. We are taking a “working vacation” this year.

I was approved to go back to Cornell University this summer to earn the next course in my Certification in Strategic Hospitality Management. This year’s course is called, “Strategic Marketing for Restaurants and Hotels.” I am fortunate to be participating in this Executive Development Program through the overwhelming support of TIANS/NSTHRC and ACOA. There are ten or eleven Nova Scotian Tourism Industry leaders who will be furthering their education at Cornell this month. Since my course is offered during the first week of July, D’Arcy and the kids have tagged along and will explore Upstate New York while I’m in class each day.

As luck would have it, D’Arcy was chosen as a Nova Scotian representative to mark a National Science Exam in Ottawa during the second week of June. After my course is over, we’ll drive back into Canada through Niagara Falls, visiting with friends along the way before arriving in Ottawa where Evan & Alex will have the opportunity to stay with their cousins and we’ll explore the Ottawa area while he works.

Yesterday morning, as soon as the guests left, we kicked into high gear: cleaning, packing and doing laundry. We had originally intended to leave early this morning and drive straight through from Truro to Boston, but two nights ago decided to leave on the 1st instead and make it as far as Bangor on Day 1.

My plan was to leave at noon, but that was ambitious! We actually pulled away from the house at about 2:00. We aren’t camping this trip, instead staying either with friends, or in suite hotels along the way. Without packing the tent or camp stove, and without the burden of equipment that young children seem to require, we appeared to have more room than usual. It almost felt like we were forgetting something!

Ready to go – room to shop?

Our first stop before we left town was a visit with Ruth & Gerry of Suncatcher B&B. Gerry had surgery last month, and because the girls & I had had colds, we hadn’t had a chance to see him since. Because Gerry makes all kinds of beautiful stained glass creations, the kids each designed “stained glass” looking get-well cards. Sarah was especially excited to write, “Bonne sante M. Mailloux. Je t’aime, Sarah” on the back of hers! We had a good (but short) visit getting caught up. By the time we ran a couple of errands on our way out of town, it was 3:30p.m. when we left Truro for Maine.

We are lucky that our kids are really good travelers. We were on the road for about 7 hours before arriving at our hotel at 10:30 p.m. our time.  About three hours into our drive, Olivia asked, “When are we going to get to Canada Day?” She was sure that we were on our way to the International Gathering of the “Clams” in Pugwash, which we’ve done the past few years.  There is a highland dance competition there that Sarah has participated in. When I told Olivia that we’re not going to get there this year (it’s actually being held today, on the 2nd, or we might have stopped along the way), she responded, “So I wore my Canada shirt for nothing?” We laughed and explained that it was still Canada Day, even if we didn’t get to Pugwash!

This is the Sarah & Olivia’s first time in the United States. We had a sweet Customs’ Agent when crossing from St. Stephen into Calais. She asked each of us the normal questions and asked the girls where they lived. “5 Broad Street!” “Belgravia Bed & Breakfast!” They told her all about our trip – where we were going, what we’d be doing, and who we’d be seeing. She commented that it sounded like a lot of fun and Olivia responded, “You need to quit your job and come with us!” I think she realized that we couldn’t possibly be hiding anything with her along, and we sailed through!

The girls oohed & aahed over the scenery, which isn’t really much different than that of rural Nova Scotia. We were surprised  to see how many motels, gift shops, restaurants and campgrounds were closed and boarded up on this side of the Border. It was a sad and forlorn sight. We had bit of rain in the early evening, and spotted a beautiful rainbow- which reminded me that we didn’t pack raincoats! (That accounts for some of the extra room – hope we have better weather than we did in Newfoundland last year!) We were exhausted by the time we arrived at the Four Points Sheraton at the Bangor Airport, but snacked on crackers, cheese, bread,ham, fruit, carrots,etc. before bed.

Rainbow along Route 9

Maine sunset

We gained an hour when crossing the border from Atlantic time to Eastern time. It felt good to “sleep in” until seven! After breakfast and a swim, we will be on our way to Boston to visit our friends (and former B&B guests), Willem & Kate, in their new home. Kate met me in New York last year when I was attending Cornell, but we’re excited to have our two families together to visit this year.We have about a four hour drive from here, and will stop in Freeport and New Hampshire along the way. We’re not big shoppers, so this is our only scheduled shopping day for the next two weeks.

The weather is beautiful so off we go on another day of adventure!! Thank you to my parents who are looking after the Bed & Breakfast for us while we’re away!! We’ll give you a vacation when we get home – we promise! 🙂

The Cornell Experience

Arriving home on Wednesday after an intense few days at Cornell, I hit the ground running.   My flights had gone smoothly, and we even arrived in Halifax a few minutes early (11:30 p.m.) – only to be slightly delayed when the Jetway wouldn’t move to meet the door of the airplane, so we had to wait for the specialists to arrive and fix it.  I sailed through customs in this direction and was so happy to see D’Arcy waiting for me!  We chatted on the 45 minute drive home; he had spent the evening at Graduation and I was excited to tell him all my stories.  I opened my suitcase at home to discover that it had been searched, probably because I had packed my wine, Grappa and Squash Seed Oil from Six Mile Creek Winery in my checked baggage.  Although I was still wound up from the trip, I knew I had to be up early to make breakfast!

Thursday was the last day of school and we couldn’t be more proud of our children – their report cards were outstanding!  D’Arcy said goodbye to Hants East Rural High; he will be switching schools and teaching Grade 7 & 8 Math and Science next year at Central Colchester Junior High, just a five-minute commute from our home, rather than 30 minutes each way.  He will be happy to gain an extra four hours in his weeks next year!

I’ve had a few days now to reflect on my experience at Cornell University’s Professional Development Program.  Was it everything I had hoped for when I applied?

Absolutely – and so much more!

The following is an excerpt from my application:

In 1991, when I began my degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Mount Saint Vincent University in Bedford, Nova Scotia, I would spend many hours in the library, pouring through the Hospitality Journals from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.  I found the articles interesting and informative and of all the hospitality journals I read during my early years of studying, the Cornell Journals are the ones I remember! 

It has been twenty years since I began my Tourism degree at the Mount.  I have spent my working career in the Tourism Industry, starting as a waitress (in those days), and progressing to bartender, server, supervisor, dining room manager, Bed & Breakfast owner & operator, and core faculty member for the Tourism Management Diploma program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Truro.  I have had a position on the executive of the Nova Scotia Bed & Breakfast Association since 2005, and a position on the Board of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia since 2008.

In 2007, I won an outstanding volunteer award from the Nova Scotia Heart & Stroke Association, presented by Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis, at Province House.  That same year, I was named Outstanding Young Person by the Colchester Chapter of the Junior Chamber International.   In 2008, Belgravia Bed & Breakfast was named Accommodation of the Year by the Central Nova Tourist Association, and in 2010 The Belgravia was named Best B&B in Colchester County by the Truro & District Chamber of Commerce.

The Strategic Hospitality Management course, as part of the Cornell University Professional Development Program is of interest to me for many reasons.  I am a believer in life-long learning and leading through example. After eight years as owner/operator of the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast in Truro, I welcome the opportunity to be challenged and presented with fresh opportunities.  Often we get stuck in our same patterns after a long period of time and I relish the prospect of being challenged. 

I would look forward to developing a “mastery of the analytical tools to perform analyses of the industry and competitors” as well as “strategies for building competitive advantage and generating superior value for customers.”  These skills would be passed on with my colleagues in the tourism industry through my work with NSBBA & TIANS.  Also, the new ideas and information I would learn would translate into positive benefits to my guests.  In my experience, attending a course like this always seems to re-energize a participant in the industry.

As core faculty in the Tourism Management program at NSCC, I would also take these skills back into my own classroom as I guide learners who are about to enter into the industry.   These students are the future of the industry and the knowledge I would gain through this course would be multiplied as I pass it along in the classroom.

The experience at Cornell was intense.  I would meet my group before class, attend class all day and then meet my group again in the evening.  (There was a beautiful welcoming reception after the first night of class where we all got to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting – so it wasn’t all work…)

As I mentioned in my last post, my classmates were from all around the world  and the networking I did was invaluable.  I’ve already lined up a couple of my classmates to Skype into my class when we are completing our Strategic Hospitality Management course, and my professor, Dr. Jeffery Shay, copied course notes onto a USB stick for me to use!  It was challenging and exciting for me to be in the classroom atmosphere, learning and collaborating with other leaders in the Tourism Industry around the world.

In class...

In class...

Break-out groups, discussing our "Atlantis" case...

Receiving my certificate!

My class photo!

These are exciting times of growth & change both in the Tourism Industry and in our family.  Since I’ve been home, I’ve been looking at our B&B through fresh eyes.  I look forward to using my new knowledge to better our B&B, to guide my students, and to support the growth of the Nova Scotian Tourism Industry in whatever ways I can!  That being said, I hope I have the opportunity to take another course next summer!!

Day 3 – Goodbye & Cornell!

This morning, I was finally able to sleep in a little bit longer.  It was well after midnight when I went to sleep last night, so when I woke up at 5 ish (4ish Ithaca time) I forced myself to go back to sleep until a message from D’Arcy, asking a question about breakfast , woke me just before seven. The B&B was out in the country so there were many songbirgs singing & chirping and a rooster crowing.  I took my time and had a shower, then we went downstairs by 8:30.  There was one other couple at the B&B who were visiting Ithaca from Philadelphia for a high-school graduation.  We had a lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, juice, coffee, pancakes, local strawberries, bacon, yogurt & syrup.  It was delicious!

Amazing Grace B&B, Ithaca, New York


A horse at the B&B - no photo of the rooster though!

After breakfast, we drove to the Six Fingers Winery.  It was wonderful.  I participated in both the spirit tasting and the wine tasting at ten o’clock in the morning!  (It’s a good thing the “tastes” are only a 1/4 ounce!) They make their vodka from the grapes that they grow.  As I was tasting, I was sure to tell the General Manager about Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and how they make their vodka from apples!   I ended up buying a bottle of Seyval Blanc and a bottle of Grappa.  I hope I am able to take them back into Canada with me.  It was a beautiful setting and they had just had a wedding there the night before.

Six Fingers Winery

Tasting the vodka made from grapes

We drove into the centre of Ithaca and went to Starbucks.  Kate & I each had some work to do.  I have to admit I had never been to a Starbucks before – there are a few in the Halifax area, but Nova Scotia is dominated by Tim Hortons.   I had a vanilla latte  and some vanilla scones. We worked & chatted, but unfortunately did not take any photos!  We knew our time was getting short, so we spent most of our time talking.

Our next stop was to fill the gas tank of the rental car: $24.90 was what it cost for us to drive around the Finger Lakes all weekend!!  (It costs almost $100 to fill our mini-van at home.)  Gas here is around 80 cents per litre!  Wow!  We returned to the Ithaca Tompkins airport to turn in the car and waited for the shuttle to take us to Cornell.

It was a quick drive and Kate’s sisters were here to pick her up shortly after we’d arrived.  We were in the lobby, waiting.  It was hard to say goodbye, but we hope that she & her family will stop in at the Belgravia Bed & Breakfast on their way to PEI later in the summer. ..

I decided that I’d go for a walk to explore the campus and get a few munchies to have in the room as I do my homework each night.  I was so taken with the architecture of the campus that I got LOST! I used the map, but when I couldn’t figure it out I finally asked a sweet young girl who is here from Southern California taking Chemistry & Engineering and she led me to where I wanted to go.  I think she felt sorry for me because she kept telling me how “tricky” it was to find and that her parents always get lost trying to get around too…  I’ve reached a new stage in life…

I think everyone on the East Coast is feeling the same way!

Beautiful architecture on the Cornell Campus

The School of Hotel Administration - where my classes are held!

The Statler Hotel - the "training" hotel for Cornell Students

I got a sandwich (which turned out to be delicious) and came back to the Statler Hotel to do some work.  I was showered and in my pj’s by 6:00.  I finally talked to my family and now it’s time for bed!

To see all of the photos of my trip, please click here!

Tomorrow:  First day of class!!

Cornell – here I come!

I am officially on an adventure!  This winter, I became aware of a professional development opportunity, sponsored through the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to attend the Professional Development Program at Cornell University.  As a university student studying Tourism & Hospitality Management, I used to pour over the journals from the Cornell School of Hotel Management.  I doubt I ever passed in a paper without at least one reference to those journals.

I knew I had to apply!

I was accepted to take the first course towards a Certification in Strategic Hospitality Management.

The past few days, I have been scrambling to get ready for the trip.  It’s a busy time of year to start with; D’Arcy’s been marking exams and coming up with final assessments, the kids have all had their year end activities and the B&B has been in full swing!  D’Arcy was up all night last night so that he could get his marks submitted and bake bread (our end-of-the-year teachers’ gift).  When I came downstairs this morning at 5:50, the table was set, the muffins were made and there were eight loaves of bread on the counter and four in the oven!

Oatmeal Brown Bread for the teachers!

This morning, as I served breakfast, I mentioned to the guests that I was excited because I would be leaving late morning to fly to Ithaca, New York.  We had a West Coast crew this morning – British Columbia & Washington State.

As president of the school parent-teacher group, as soon as our guests left I scooted out and, with my sister-in-law, took two trays of fruit and six dozen muffins up to the school for the teachers to show our appreciation for all they do.  I came back home and helped my father finish the kitchen clean-up.  Before we knew it, it was time to hit the road for the airport!

I had received an email that my flight was delayed by and hour, but my father was anxious to get me to the airport!  (Keep in mind that this is the same man who tried to get me to my wedding a half hour early!)  My flight was delayed, so I dropped some of our Belgravia Bed & Breakfast brochures off at the airport Visitor Information Centre.  As I was talking with Natalie, we discovered that her cousin is my teaching mentor at the Nova Scotia Community College!  It’s a small world!

I went upstairs to US departures and breezed through security.  I went on to be cleared through US Customs and got pulled aside!  At first I thought it was because the purpose of my trip was to study and they thought I needed a certain Visa.  I got taken into a secondary area and asked to sit in  a sterile environment while I waited for the Customs Agent to look up all the information.  It turned out I was screened because the name on my passport is not the name on my birth certificate!  I’ve never heard of this!  He told me all my information is incorrect and that I can’ t just “change my name”!  Talk about stress.  Luckily, I had other ID with me and so pulled out my driver’s license and my Nova Scotia health card which have my name on them, exactly as written on my passport.  He allowed me to go through but told me when I get my passport renewed, I should get them to change my name.  Actually, I will be applying for a NEXUS card instead to be pre-cleared and avoid the opportunity of something like this happening again!

Through security but before going through US Customs!

I went into the holding area which was really quite lovely.  It is bright and airy and clean.  I had a burger and watched the planes, then did some homework.  Our daughter has a severe Peanut/treenut allergy, so we never eat nuts of any kind when we are around her; since I will be away for a week, I had my first Crispy Crunch chocolate bar in over four years!  Yum!! The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has been voted best airport in its class for the past seven years, and after traveling through three airports in one day, I understand why!  It was a very pleasant experience.

My flight finally took off from Halifax to Philadelphia and I figured that when I landed I would have about 20 minutes to switch terminals and make my connecting flight to Ithaca.  As it turned out, I needn’t have worried as when I arrived, I discovered the flight to Ithaca had been delayed by an hour-and-half.  My friend Kate, who grew up in Upstate New York, but now lives in Boston, has met me for the weekend, so we spent our time in the airport getting caught up after I called the owner of the B&B where we were booked to let her know what was going on.  When we boarded the plane to Ithaca, we were told that due to severe weather earlier in the day, there was a backlog for take-off and we were behind approximately 22 other flights.  We ended up sitting on the runway for an 1hour and 45 minutes before take off, so it was close to 9:00 when we finally arrived in Ithaca.  Luckily, our bags came right through and the rental car was waiting for us.

We drove to Thomas Farm B&B and brought our things in.  We have a sweet room with a loft, so freshened up a bit and then headed back into downtown Ithaca to find something to eat.  Along the side of the road, Kate pointed out the fireflies – the sky was just full of them and it was just beautiful.  We also had a possum run across the road in front of us which was another new experience!

Most of the nicer eating establishments were closed and we decided that we weren’t quite up to going to one of the College pubs, so we went to “Collegetown Pizza” and had a slice of pizza and wrote our names on the wall with many others!  We came back to the B&B where we poured over the tourist literature of the Finger Lakes area and made a plan for Saturday before calling it a night.

My name is there for posterity

D’Arcy is home looking after a full-house by himself.  We had some returning guests arriving who I am disappointed to be missing…

Next up:  Exploring the Finger Lake Region of New York State!