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York College professor 'brings a great deal of insight' to Hospitality program

October 26, 2016
Michelle D. (Shelly) La Motte
Michelle La Motte, instructor of hospitality management

For Michelle La Motte, becoming a Hospitality Management professor at York College of Pennsylvania has been a homecoming in more than one way.

Her earlier career included hotel management, hospitality consulting and asset management. Then, based on her experiences as a guest lecturer and student mentor at her own alma mater, La Motte wanted to transition into teaching Hospitality Management at the college level. She was hired as one of the first professors in the Hospitality Management program and moved back to her hometown of York. She also found another community in her professional life.

“There’s a sense of family among the students, faculty and administration,” La Motte said.

A York County native and graduate of York Suburban High School, La Motte received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Hospitality Administration from Cornell University. As the first hospitality program in the United States, Cornell is consistently revered as the top hospitality program in the world and created a model for the programs that have come since then, according to John Hughes, chair of Hospitality Management at York College.

Spending much of her career working in consulting and asset management in the real estate sector, La Motte also served as the global president of the Cornell Hotel Society. The society is an alumni network for Cornell Hospitality Management graduates, and has chapters in 71 countries and throughout the United States. La Motte also lectured at the university as an executive in residence and continues to be active at her alma mater.

According to Hughes, he was familiar with La Motte’s reputation in the hospitality industry based on their mutual friends in the industry. He was impressed with her work overall, and especially at Cornell.

“Shelly did great work at Cornell,” he said. “She brings a great deal of insight to us here so we can build something really special.”

'What we master, we master'

La Motte teaches the finance-related courses that are taken by students in the Hospitality Management major, as well as the program’s senior Capstone Courses in Strategic Career Planning and Strategic Career Plan Execution.

She wants to make sure students absorb as much information as possible as they head into their future careers and allow them to take as much time as they need to conquer the material.

“We cover theory and formulas and then we practice. We work through the information together until they feel comfortable, and then test them on the material,” La Motte said.

La Motte noted that because of the low student to faculty ratio and small program size of about 100 students, she is able to see all students through their entire finance course sequence. Anything that wasn’t covered in a class will then be tacked onto the next course in the sequence, she said.

“I tell the students at the beginning of the semester that what we master, we master,” La Motte said. “We take our time because this subject matter is complex, but it is something they will use throughout their careers.”

A winning combination

All Hospitality Management courses are taught by professors with extensive experience in the field, as opposed to graduate students or teaching assistants, according to La Motte.

Each professor has a rich background in a specific industry, including food and beverage, lodging, and, in La Motte’s case, finance. Combined with small class sizes, La Motte believes this has created a recipe for future success in the Hospitality Management program.

According to Hughes, La Motte is a key part of that winning combination.

“Michelle understands our culture, and what we’re trying to do here,” he said.

La Motte is excited to see students enter a field that’s been growing for several years. Many of her former students now work in hotels, restaurants and as event planners.

“It’s a great time for these students to be entering the Hospitality industry,” she said. “I’m happy to be a part of their education and to help prepare them for a career I think they’ll find fulfilling and fun.”

York College is proud to offer one of the best Hospitality Management schools in Pennsylvania, where our Hospitality Management major prepares students for one of the largest and most diverse career fields in the U.S. Where will a Hospitality Management degree take you?

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