Rubenstein School graduate Lauren Masters ’18 combined a Parks, Recreation and Tourism degree, a Business minor, internships and work experience, and a Sustainable Innovation MBA at UVM as stepping stones to a career in sustainable business management.
A Warren, Vermont native who attended school in Massachusetts, Lauren always knew she would return to Vermont. Excited to experience Burlington, she entered UVM as an Undecided major. Jobs at Round Barn Farm, an inn and event facility in Waitsfield, Vermont, near her hometown, sparked her interest in the hospitality field. With advice from Rubenstein School faculty member Dave Kaufman, Lauren chose to major in Parks, Recreation and Tourism and to round out her education with a minor in Business from the Grossman School.
Offered a summer internship with Round Barn Farm, Lauren worked with the on-site wedding event planner and became fully involved – from planning and engaging with the bride and groom to ensuring the big day went smoothly.
She became interested in the management side of hospitality. A 12-week Rubenstein School Perennial Summer Internship with Westport Hospitality in Burlington gave her a glimpse into the corporate world of hospitality management to augment her boutique experience in Waitsfield.
Lauren worked in every department at Westport’s three locations: Hotel Vermont in Burlington, Courtyard Burlington Harbor, and Townplace Suites in Williston. By shadowing team members at the front desk and in housekeeping, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, and the restaurant, she experienced all aspects of hotel management from behind the scenes to up front interaction with guests.
Her favorite area? “Sales and marketing,” she said, “where I got to connect with guests firsthand.”
She conducted several projects for Westport including a survey of guests to learn more about their booking habits. “Guests book directly with the hotel or they use a third-party website, such as Travelocity or Expedia,” said Lauren. “We wanted to learn about their experiences and motivation for choosing one method over the other and how we might encourage more guests to book directly.”
After graduating, Lauren continued to work as a team member at Hotel Vermont while pursuing her MBA to learn more about business and the corporate world. The Sustainable Innovation MBA in the Grossman School complemented her experiences in the Rubenstein School.
“I see a lot of opportunities to make hotel management greener in the future,” said Lauren, who listed some of the innovations she witnessed during her internship and employment at Westport’s properties. These include investment in the environment and in employees through waste reduction, replacement of bottled water with water refill stations, sourcing of local materials, and educating team members about local partners.
“A sustainable business should strive for the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit and invest in more than financial gain,” said Lauren.
"We are proud of all that Lauren has accomplished as a University of Vermont student as well as an intern and team member at Westport Hospitality," said Joe Carton, Westport Hospitality's Chief Operating Officer. "Hospitality is all about helping guests create memories, and Lauren has that spirit and talent. We believe Lauren will be a great success in her career in hospitality as she understands the concepts of managing local and reaching global. Success in hospitality comes from managing the needs of guests, community, and team members which leads to the financial sustainability of an organization. "
For her MBA practicum, Lauren and two classmates teamed up to work with Jaipur Rugs, an India-based rugmaker that focuses on social impacts and provides sustainable livelihoods to 40,000 artisans, many of them women, in 600 remote, rural villages. She and her team conducted a competitor analysis for the company to compare Jaipur’s sustainable practices to those of other rugmakers.
During a 10-day trip to India, Lauren interacted with Jaipur’s artisans and corporate representatives. She learned how Jaipur impacts communities by offering training in weaving, functional and financial literacy, and leadership skills. The company also provides health programs to its artisans.
“I was blown away by their social initiatives,” she said. “They have a really big impact on local communities and there are so many opportunities for them to share their practices and create change.”
Graduating with her MBA in August 2019, Lauren plans to continue her hospitality work in the corporate setting and hopes to focus on corporate social responsibility. In the future, she would like to start her own consulting business to help new hospitality businesses and hotels establish social and environmental responsibility right from the start.