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.


Exploring the Finger Lakes of New York – Day 2!

Talk about experiential tourism!!  Today, we “experienced” some of the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Unfortunately, my internal clock doesn’t realize that I was “on vacation” this morning, so I was wide awake by 5:30 a.m which was 4:30 am Ithaca time!  Sharing a room with Kate, I didn’t want to wake her, so I tried to go back to sleep. It was no use.  I finally opened the computer around 6:00 and started to do some work until it was time to get up and ready for breakfast.

Breakfast at the Thomas Farm B&B was wonderful – I’m not surprised as the owner told us they have been in business since 1988! Kate & I were the last to arrive and there were eight people already chatting over coffee when we got there.  (In New York a B&B can have up to five rooms, where in Nova Scotia, a B&B is defined as “four rooms or fewer”.) There were two senior couples, a mother & her 17-year-old daughter and two women who had been roommates in College, but now have grown children.  I was the only Canadian.  We had breakfast of fruit, juice, sausage, French toast with strawberries & maple syrup, and lots of coffee.  The conversation was animated & fun.  Coincidentally, one couple is planning a trip to Nova Scotia next summer, so I gave them our business card!  We’ll look forward to seeing them again when they come stay with us at the Belgravia!

Thomas Farm B&B, Ithaca, New York

We left shortly after breakfast and headed to Watkins Glen where we hiked a mile up and then back in the Gorge.  It was beautiful!  The temperature was just perfect and there were no bugs. A lot of the scenery in this part of New York reminds me of the scenery you would see in parts of Central Nova Scotia or the Annapolis Valley.  This Gorge, however, is unique!  We giggled a bit when we noticed a large group of people looking down into the gorge, taking photos and exclaiming! It turned out that there was a large Beaver watching everyone above.  I joked to Kate that he must have been the welcoming committee for this Canadian!

My welcoming committee!

The photos can do more justice than my words:

Kate & I, still near the beginning of the journey

Just over a year ago, Kate was just beginning the recovery process from a near death experience after the birth of her third child. At that time, she couldn't even climb the 14 steps to their home so we celebrated that she could now walk one MILE up into the gorge! (And back again!)

I'm behind the waterfall here!

The topography was just beautiful!

Our timing was perfect – just as we got to the car, the heavens opened up and it POURED!!

The Heavens opened as we got into the car!

We made the decision to go straight to Corning to visit the Corning Museum of Glass.  We were less than ten minutes up the road and the sun came out!  It reminded me of Nova Scotian weather!

The Corning (As in Corningware casserole dishes) Glass Museum was interesting with beautiful displays of glass throughout the ages.  There were also live demonstrations and many tour buses.  Kate& I were able to each blow our own glass ornament outside.  Because they need time to cool (the kilns are at a temperature of 2100*F!), they will be shipped to us.  Because Canada Post is on strike, they are shipping mine toKate’s house and either she will ship it on to me after the strike, or – even better – bring it with them when they come to Nova Scotia & PEI to go camping this summer!!

Kate just had to make the reference "Corning - as in Corningware casserole dishes" and I was in!

Amazing glass sculpture!


A live demonstration as they made a glass vase and described the process

Blowing my own glass ornament!

It was late afternoon when we were finished at the museum, so we took the opportunity to get checked into our B&B, “Amazing Grace” at “Five Foxes Farm”.  This weekend is graduation, so many B&B’s have been long booked up.  We got our things in and then after a quick change headed back into Ithaca.  Before we arrived, Kate had booked us massages at Rasa Spa – her treat.  (Thank you Kate!!)  It was just what we needed after all the traveling yesterday, the hiking and the museum today!!

We left the spa and headed to the Moosewood Restaurant for dinner at my request.  D’Arcy already had one of the Moosewood cookbooks before we were married and some of my favourite recipes have come from it!  The restaurant was a leader in local, sustainable food decades ago and didn’t disappoint!  (Kate’s husband commented that he felt it funny that a mainly vegetarian restaurant would be called “Moosewood”!)  The servings were plentiful and delicious!  I am still feeling stuffed!  My only complaint is that the service was perhaps a bit too fast – we had just started our appetizers when our salads arrived.  I had just finished my salad and Kate was still working on hers when our entrees arrived!  We had quite a table full of food for a while!

Don't we look relaxed after our massages?! This meal was fantastic!!

After dinner we dragged our exhausted, full bodies back to the B&B for bed.  The fireflies are back again tonight, sparkling & lighting up the field across the road. Kate asked if I wanted to go and try to catch some, but I don’t think my tired feet would move fast enough!

As we were chatting as we were getting ready for bed, we both agreed today couldn’t have gone much better!

Tomorrow:  A winery, some errands, my first Starbucks, a sad goodbye and Cornell!