DDLS Speaker Grace Leo and Student Opnions
The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series or DDLS has been part of the Hotel School’s culture since 1928 when it was founded in 1928 by the Hotel School’s founding dean Howard Meek. Every Friday, a leader or rising star from the hospitality industry visit Cornell and speaks to the DDLS students in Statler Auditorium. The sectors that the DDLS speakers work in vary from food & beverage, hotel operations, aviation, and others. The DDLS speakers discuss their experience in the industry and what they have learned and how they grown from those experiences.
DDLS is held every Friday in the fall semester and is also known as “Hotelie Fridays” amongst Cornell students. Freshman Hotel School students make up the majority of the DDLS class but many sophomores and upperclassmen continue to attend because of the valuable lessons DDLS speakers share with students.
This past Friday, on October 20th 2017, Grace Leo (‘77) was our DDLS speaker. Ms. Leo is the CEO of Ledunfly Hospitality Collection UK and President and CEO of Grace Leo Consultancy. Ms. Leo has travelled the world and is fluent in English, French, and Chinese.
Here are the thoughts of 6 freshman Hotel School students.
hat did you think of today’s DDLS speaker?
How did the speakers influence your view on boutique hotels?
Is there anything special or significant that Grace Leo mentioned that influenced how you will approach school, internships, or jobs?
If you had one question to ask the speakers, what would it be?
Angel Ding ‘21
She demonstrates how there can be no glass ceiling for women, no passport boundaries for success. She is definitely an influential figure. She is straightforward and has her own set of values: talked about how “designed/themed hotels” will go out of style but service can never be out of style. She is bold and daring and whose accomplishments have paid off.
What I got from speech is realizing that meeting the market demand for special is essential. Boutique hotel is one way of achieving this goal. I enjoy the idea of “affordable luxury” and that character most boutique hotel presents. I guess her speech just made me realize /notice that boutique hotels is not completely about a set up, it’s also about sincere care and service.
Already mentioned in the first question but I loved one quote: “There is no glass ceilings for women, no passport boundaries for success, and I am the living proof.” As someone with similar backgrounds, I was awed by her experience and accomplishments. I really appreciate that how she (basically just being there) showed us language, ethnicity, gender are not real barriers. I want to thank her for showing me that it is possible to achieve to reach that high level. I guess she gave me more confidence and less doubt about my identity.
How did you overcome the barrier of language and how long did it take for you to adapt? (moving from Hong Kong to US to France)
Nicole Lai '20
Ms. Leo is an elegant, wise and humble woman and has inspired me in many different ways. I admired her open-mindedness to work in various positions and the courage in challenging herself living in different cities with different cultures. The perspectives she had brought back to the Hotel School has fostered my passion to the hospitality industry.
After her DDLS, I learned that be able to express values and local culture to the guests is also an important element for a successful boutique hotel.
I want to work in various cities around the world where I have never been to after graduation. Ms. Grace Leo has given me the courage to keep looking for internships or jobs in different countries at my time here at the Hotel School.
What should I do to prepare myself for the challenges I might face in a new culture?
Adam Brundell ‘21
I thought Grace Leo’s talk was very interesting. I learned a lot about the luxury hotel business and the challenges that they faced. I found it interesting how she described what her role was as CEO of Ledunfly Hospitality.
I had never considered a career in boutique hotels before hearing her speak, but now I’m interested. I always thought boutique hotels were very interesting and cool, and now I’m curious about the possibilities. She did, however, bring up the fact that it is difficult to be profitable when working in the business.
She had a very powerful vision of what she would like to do moving forward, which inspired me to set goals for myself, as I continue to study at the hotel school.
Why did you choose to work in luxury hotels, rather than any other part of the hotel business. What drew her to boutique hotels, specifically?
Angela Escalona ‘21
Ms. Leo was such an elegant speaker. Anyone who listened to her speak could clearly see her knowledge and passion for boutique hotels.
Ms. Leo’s presentation showed me how each luxury boutique hotel can have a personality based on their targeted guests. Whether her establishments have a polished or urban design, they take the definition of interior design to the next level.
Her ability and advice to adapt in different countries and environments will help me study or work or intern abroad.
What is one major advantage that you believe students specifically from the School of Hotel Administration have in the hospitality industry?
Noelle DesLauriers ‘21
I really enjoyed Ms. Leo’s presentation about her career and boutique hotels. It was so amazing to see what you can do once you leave the hotel school. I especially enjoyed listening to Ms. Leo’s story as she was classmates with my Father when they attended the Hotel School.
I have always loved the concept of boutique hotels. Ms. Leo’s presentation showed me that boutique hotels are more than just independent designer properties, and how they are able to tastefully embody the city, town, or country that they are situated in by using local products and cultural design concepts.
Ms. Leo’s roundtable discussion and presentation empowered me to feel confident as a woman in the hospitality industry. She gave amazing advice about how important it is to believe in yourself and work hard to accomplish your goals no matter barriers of race, gender, or language. I also admired her comments about how important it is for all hotelies to have humility and stay grounded as we embark into the world of hospitality after graduation.
Most of the speakers this year have provided current hotelies with advice about how to find their way in the industry after graduation. In addition to hearing this advice, I would love to hear how the speakers would advise students to make the most of their time at the Hotel School before graduation.
Hannah Overstrom ‘21
I was completely in awe of Ms. Grace Leo. Not only by her achievements in the hotel industry, especially with boutique hotels in Europe, but also by the way she carried herself. For being such a powerful player in the industry, she came off as polite and humble, which to me means a lot about a person.
I’ve always been fascinated with boutique hotels which is probably why I was so interested in Ms. Leo’s lecture. What resonated the most with me was Ms. Leo’s definition of luxury as a sense of freedom and something that is becoming less tangible, and more experience focused. This is what I love most about boutique hotels: having the freedom to create something that the standard big box hotel can’t provide. Ms. Leo just emphasized to me the importance of providing guests not only a beautiful place to stay, but memories as well.
Ms. Leo talked about the importance of sincerity, specifically when it comes to service, for savvy customers know when one is being superficial. I can see her message of sincerity being applied not only to the service of guests, but to school and future jobs. People can tell when you aren’t being sincere, whether it be your peers, professors, or employers. I think it is just something to be mindful of.
I know Ms. Leo touched on this topic a little at the end of her lecture, but I would want to know more about her experience as a woman in an industry that was composed mostly of men. Specifically, her advice for young women who are just entering the hospitality field.