From standing water to standing ovations
Dimond fellowship alum Tristin Lawrence found success in hospitality – from expecting the unexpected questions.
How do you get a luxury car into an elevator?
Aside from the obvious answer of “very carefully,” this is the kind of challenge Tristin Lawrence had to find a solution to as group reservations supervisor at the Viceroy in Aspen.
Fortunately, the 2015 hospitality, tourism and events graduate had a secret weapon: experience as a Dimond fellow at MSU Denver.
Established in 2014 through a generous gift, the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellows Program affords participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience from a paid internship at a Stonebridge Companies property in Denver for a semester. The fellowship is open twice a year to seniors majoring in hospitality at MSU Denver.
“The experience was great,” Lawrence said. “You might study something in a book, or even be working in the field already – but the Dimond fellowship is what tied it all together to graduate ready and prepared for whatever comes your way.”
Now employed as a sales specialist/manager with Aloft Denver Downtown, Lawrence recalled how her fellowship at the refurbished Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center hotel gave her a comprehensive look at everything from revenue management to housekeeping’s rationale for placing pens facing the direction they do on the complimentary notepads.
One particular instance left Lawrence both experienced – and waterlogged. On a chilly night, a laundry chute blowing cold air caused pipes to freeze in the property’s basement. The lead engineer arrived right before the sprinkler system was about to burst and hit the emergency shutoff, capping the damage to minor flooding that only required replacing ceiling tiles (and soggy wardrobe changes for the housekeeping staff).
“There was so much standing water as it was, but that [sprinkler system] puts out 30 gallons a minute – it could’ve been so much worse,” said Lawrence. “Seeing how things like that are handled, along with reading the control panels and running supervisory procedures with the front desk, was invaluable.”
Another important benefit is the program’s accompanying professional network. Launching Stonebridge Properties in 1991, the Dimonds have grown the business into a a nationwide innovative hotel owner, operator and developer that boasts more than 50 properties and is headquartered near Denver.
And for Fall 2017 Dimond fellows Blair Swartz, Brittany Collier, Kaylee Crandall and Kenzie Talbot, it’s an opportunity to shine – at a scale that’s hard to find anywhere else.
“As a result of this experience, I’m confident in my abilities and have been able to show what I’m capable of,” said Lawrence.
On any given day, that might include logistics for a cosmetics company that airlifted in models for a mountain photo shoot. Or turning a hotel lobby into a concert venue.
To this latter point, Aloft regularly hosts live music in its entrance, where bands set up on the floor. Instead of acts playing at eye-level to guests, Lawrence suggested taking advantage of the room’s split floor setup. By removing two large panels flanking the sides, musicians were able to set up on the makeshift mezzanine to elevate their performance – and the audience experience.
“It worked out great; attendees really got the sense of being at a concert, and the band felt awesome playing from the stage,” Lawrence said. “My sales director told me, ‘This is exactly why I hired you.’”
It’s an unlikely journey from broken pipes to elevating vocalists – but for Dimond fellows, it’s all about expecting the unexpected.
And what about that car that needed to get downstairs?
As the mantra goes, the customer – who needed the luxury vehicle on a lower level of the hotel property for a photo shoot – is always right.
“We ended up driving it down a mountain path, onto the patio, where we unhinged the doors and maneuvered it to where the client wanted it,” said Lawrence.
“Every single day is about figuring out creative and better solutions to unexpected problems. And that’s exactly what the Dimond fellowship is all about.”