2019 Best & Brightest: Marissa Block, Cornell University (Hotel Administration)

Marissa Block

School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

“Intellectually curious, artistically inclined, and always interested in breaking bread. Sponsored by Google Calendar.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have two different colored eyes!

Hometown: Winter Park, FL

High School: Trinity Preparatory School

Major: Hotel Administration

Minor: Concentration: Development, Minor: Design & Environmental Analysis

Favorite Business Course: Hospitality Facilities Design with Professor Brad Wellstead

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Leadership: Student Assistant to the Dean of the School of Hotel Administration; Hotel School Ambassadors, Vice President of Marketing & Media; The Grid, Co-Founder and Co-Leader; Sexual Assault Awareness Week, Co-Lead; Cornell Hospitality Consulting, Project Manager

Activities: Teaching Assistant for Persuasive Communications; Student Administrative Assistant; Hotel Ezra Cornell

Awards: School of Hotel Administration Dean’s List; Curtis C. Nelson Scholarship Recipient from the American Hotel & Lodging Association; Opening Doors Scholarship from Recipient from the American Hotel & Lodging Association; Student Icon at the Hotel School Icon & Innovator Awards

Where have you interned during your college career? Universal Studios Hollywood; Los Angeles, CA; Shared Services Intern Calissa Restaurant; Southampton, NY; Restaurant Development Intern Professional Development Program at Cornell University; Ithaca, NY; Guest Services Manager

Where will you be working after graduation? ZS Associates, Hospitality Insights & Strategy Consultant

What did you enjoy most about your business school? There is no beating the community of the School of Hotel Administration. I feel so lucky to have a place to call home within the larger campus of Cornell. The friendships I have made at SHA are undoubtedly friendships I will have for the rest of my life, and I am constantly amazed at how unfailingly helpful and thoughtful my classmates are.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? There is something to learn from everyone – keep an open mind.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Look past a school’s core curriculum to see what opportunities you may have for business electives. My favorite educational experiences were those that provided unique, focused perspectives on the business world. This includes study abroad by spending a semester in Copenhagen and furthered my education in such a special way.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I was scared that going into business would be overly competitive, but I have found it to be a collaborative atmosphere. In the real world, you can’t survive in business without creating connections, and I have found that aspect reflected in our school.

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…Film production.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Duff Goldman – yes, the star of the TV show Ace of Cakes. Before the show, baking was just a hobby for me. But once I started watching, I was inspired to take cake decorating classes and even sold some cakes myself. I really don’t think I would’ve ended up at Cornell without the show! He made me realize that business isn’t one dimensional.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? What I am most proud of is actually not my work in the business school, but my active attempts to try coursework outside of the school. My first semester, I took a Southeast Asian studies course where our small class would discuss the ethics of traveling. It paralleled in such an interesting way with my hospitality education. Since then, I have tried to take as many classes as possible in as many subjects as possible. I have enhanced my learning with courses like Modern Art History, Death Penalty in America, and Modern Romance. I also have a minor outside of business in Design & Environmental Analysis, which has led me to my niche interest in hospitality design. Design is centered on creating a better human experience, and I believe design-thinking and hospitality-leaning people have so much to share with one another due to a shared goal of creating a better experience.

Which classmate do you most admire? One of my closest and oldest friends at Cornell is Tali Bailes. She is the most humble person I know, despite her incredible achievements. She founded a nonprofit during her time at Cornell called Ballet & Books which works with younger children through the art of dance and the skills of literacy. She is a passionate person and takes action in causes that matter to her, and she is so inspiring to me!

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I couldn’t be where I am today without the support of my parents. Mom and dad, thank you for listening to my ramblings about menu layouts and lobby designs. The opportunities I have had at Cornell would have been impossible without their help along the way.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I would love to become an adjunct professor for a course for a semester and I want to learn a new language.

What are your hobbies? I enjoy painting and drawing in my free time, and like to be outside hiking when the weather is nice. I’m a bit of a movie geek, and love watching and reading about films. I also love to bake!

What made Marissa such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Marissa combines strong academics with a warm, hospitality-oriented heart. She’s both a leader and a great team contributor. She’s good at both analysis and creative thinking. And she’s always eager to help out fellow students as they navigate being a Hotelie. I’ve had Marissa in two of my hospitality development classes so far, and she’s really interested in hospitality design, specifically how to marry what she’s learned in her business courses with creating environments that give guests a great experience.  On top of all she does, Marissa is also serving as one of two Dean’s Assistants, a distinct honor that she has handled with aplomb. I know Marissa has an amazing future ahead of her and I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

Stephani K. A. Robson
PhD; Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Cornell Classes of 1988 (B.S. – Hotel); 1999 (M.S. – Human Ecology); and 2010 (PhD – Hotel)


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