#HokieHospitality Stories

Allison Toupin

Allison Toupin is a Revenue Advisor for Marriott International Corporate. She leads revenue management strategy for Marriott select service brands in Southeast America, focusing on market trends, consumer indices, and revenue management system accuracy + impact. 

  The HTM department allowed me to realize the importance of building a professional network early on. During my time at Virginia Tech I developed relationships with executives in the industry that have only grown stronger since. The program provided a strong foundation to build my career from, and I am proud to continue my growth as a HTM Hokie alumna.

Ashley Baboota

Ashley Baboota is the digital marketing guru and Marketing Project Manager at Interstate Hotels and Resorts in Crystal City, Virginia. Ashley helps hotel sales and marketing teams for this global leader in hotel investment, development, and operations create and manage digital tools to find new revenue opportunities, generate leads, and build on guest relationships.

 I know we always like to brag about how we’re part of the Pamplin School of Business, but I never realized how important that was until my first day on the job. I had a level of confidence with myself which I gained through classroom content such as reading financial statements, analyzing STR reports, and understanding the operational functions of a hotel environment. These attributes allowed my career to jump ahead of the competition.  I also learned quickly that the HTM community is VERY well connected… it’s like tapping into a gold mine.

Alexandra Koger

For those of you interested in events, Ali Koger is living the dream! She is Associate Producer at FIRST, a New York City event management company. She provides logistical support on a variety of programs including galas, networking events, product launches, meetings and activations. Her project portfolio includes events such as the Tyra Banks TZone Foundation Flawsome Ball, the Bergdorf Goodman's Holiday Window Reveal, and UNICEF Snowflake Lighting.

 I discovered that the HTM department offered so many amazing opportunities: smaller class sizes which allowed more 1-on-1 interaction; advice and guidance from the professors; a Field Study that helped me go in search of what I wanted to do after graduation and get that necessary experience, which I was very grateful for; scholarship opportunities; a push to attend career fairs; and interactive classes. These different opportunities allowed me to grow, network and paint a clearer picture of the direction I wanted for my Hospitality career path following graduation.

TJ Pierri

TJ Pierri is a veteran in the hospitality industry with 25 years of experience. He began his career working in his family’s many restaurants in upstate New York and has taken progressive roles working in luxury resorts, urban boutique hotels and large city centers across the United States. He has overseen operations with Destinations Hotels in Charleston SC  and Vail CO, the Fairmont in Miami and Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Palm Springs. He recently joined Lansdowne Resort and Spa as the Resort Manager, bringing him back to Virginia and closer to his alma mater.

 A degree in HTM from Virginia Tech is a passport to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Why work in a gray cubicle when you can work in a gorgeous resort, elegant restaurant, or retro hotel, making guests’ dreams come true every day!

Melissa Milione

Melissa Milione has built an impressive career in the Hospitality Industry for over 25 years by taking advantage of the diversity of career paths available in our field.  She has taken a “lattice” approach to her career, working in catering, sales, event planning, and customer service.  Her current role as the Corporate Director of Events for Hyatt continues to provide a new adventure every day! In addition to her duties as a Director, Melissa also serves as a corporate trainer in the areas of planning, sales, and technology.

 Virginia Tech’s Hospitality and Tourism program is outstanding. In my role, I encounter students from all of the major universities that have similar degree programs; the graduates from Tech seem to be much better prepared for the realities of our industry.

Ben Burge

As an HTM transfer student, Ben Burge discovered a love for hospitality finance that he never knew he had. Ben works as a sales analyst for Mumford Company, a hotel investment firm located in the Virginia Beach area. During his years in HTM, he was the HTM Undergraduate Curriculum Committee student representative as well as a member of Eta Sigma Delta, the hospitality honors society. Ben has already given back to HTM through his sponsorship of a scholarship in 2016. He also returned to campus to sit on an alumni panel to share his experiences with current HTM students.

 The best part of my experience at VT was the genuine care and dedication the faculty has for the students. If you show you are driven and want to excel, they will look out for you. I got hired at Mumford Company not only because of choosing a finance based curriculum, but also because I took advantage of department supported networking opportunities such as attending the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference in Atlanta.

Eric Terry

Eric Terry is a seasoned leader in hospitality and tourism who has spent more than thirty years marketing restaurants, hotels, casinos and entertainment. He currently serves as the President of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging, and Travel Association (VRLTA).  In this role he serves at the chief advocate for the hospitality and tourism industry in the Commonwealth. Eric leads the charge to protect existing hospitality and tourism-friendly laws and lobby for new legislation when needed by working with the most influential and powerful people in both the industry and politics.

 As one of the early graduates for the HTM department I have seen the evolution of the program into one of the most respected hospitality programs in the nation.

Mallory Tuttle

Mallory Tuttle is Program Manager for the Strome Entrepreneurial Center at Old Dominion University. She is a May 2014 HTM Master’s degree recipient. Prior to joining ODU she was the Business Development Manager for Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. working to market the Franklin Business Center and to develop business opportunities in the Franklin Southampton area. Mallory credits her business-oriented HTM degree for giving her the tools to help young entrepreneurs create their dream businesses!

  Completing an HTM graduate degree in a business-oriented program has given me the skills I need to work with small business owners. Plus, I love being a Hokie!

Kaye Chon

Kickstarting his career as a hotel manager and tourism consultant, Dean Kaye Chon currently holds the esteemed position of Dean and Chair Professor at the prestigious and globally top-ranked School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has published over 200 papers in international journals and has authored or edited eight books. Dean Chon influences industry professionals all over the world as the Chief Editor of both the Journal of Travel & Tourism Management and the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research. His lectures, seminars, and speeches have no borders as he has taught in more than 90 countries across all continents of the world.

 My Ph.D. at Virginia Tech prepared me for a career in teaching, research and academic administration. I am particularly grateful to the late Professor Michael Olsen in HTM and Professor Joe Sirgy in Marketing who guided me through my research.