Topic: Hospitality / Events and Tourism
Michael Wray, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has decades of collegiate teaching experience within culinary, brewing and beverage management and hospitality management industries.
As a chef and sommelier, Wray is active in the food and beverage industry by consulting with companies in restaurant design, menu and recipe development. He has also provided instrumental input into the vision that led to the creation of MSU Denver’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center and complementary laboratory classrooms. Wray has developed key partnerships with community and civic leaders for major events and charities such as Food for Thought Denver and the Denver Food and Wine Festival. He recently developed the framework for the brewery partnership with the Tivoli Brewing Company, leading to $7 million facility enhancements to the Tivoli Student Union and establishing integrated learning laboratories for students studying brewing.
As the former food and beverage director with Ramada Renaissance and Holiday Inn Hotels, Wray is regularly interviewed regarding his knowledge and creative abilities in food, wine and beer. His research interests include hospitality competency, learning environments and learning communities. Most recently, he co-authored the article “Effects of cooperative learning on Chinese students performing a formal table setting for American style service” in the Journal of Foodservice Business Research.
Wray received his doctorate in education leadership from University of Colorado, Denver, a master’s in business management from Salisbury University and a bachelor’s in nutrition and foods from Virginia Tech. He also holds multiple credentials in food and beverage, including Sommelier Diploma, Certified Wine Specialist, Master Certified Food Service Executive and Certified Culinary Instructor.
Cory Tipton, J.D., is an affiliate faculty in the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She teaches courses on alcohol beverage law and hospitality law.
Tipton has been the vice president of The Tipton Law Firm since 2007. She has nearly 15 years of experience practicing law and extensive expertise with clients in various administrative fields including all areas of liquor licensing and alcohol beverage regulation, as well as casino gaming licensing in the state of Colorado. Tipton specializes in assisting new breweries, wineries, distilleries, beverage distributors, and retail liquor stores. She has also assisted related trade organizations in the legislative and governance aspects of the alcohol beverage industry.
Prior to law, Tipton pursued a career in aviation as a commercial pilot for the airlines and still holds a pilot license. She continues to work in aviation on the administrative side of aviation law. She is also the current chair of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Colorado Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Tipton received her juris doctor from University of Denver and a bachelor’s summa cum laude in aerospace science from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Katie Strain, M.S., is a laboratory services manager of Alcoholic Beverage Quality Assurance/ Quality Control and a lecturer in the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her areas of expertise are fermentation, microbiology, chemistry, data analysis and experimental design.
Prior to joining MSU Denver, Strain worked as a laboratory operations coordinator and graduate student at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. She was also a research associate at Colorado State University and laboratory technician at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Strain received her master’s in environmental toxicology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 2014 and a bachelor’s in biochemistry from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2005. She is a triple TTB certified chemist allowing her to conduct analysis of beer, wine and spirits for purposes of export.
Inna Soifer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of event and meeting management in the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her areas of expertise include global meetings and events; conventions, exhibitions industry; event technology; incentive travel; venue management and destination management.
Prior to joining MSU Denver, Soifer taught at the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management for the University of Memphis and was a graduate instructor at the University of Mississippi. She is a certified hospitality educator with over a decade of experience in the global hospitality industry, including as a project manager for one of Russia’s leading meeting and event agencies. Soifer’s primary research area is in business and trade events. Her recent studies examined value creation in corporate events and customer adoption of event technology.
Soifer received her Ph.D. in nutrition and hospitality management with a minor in applied statistics from the University of Mississippi in 2021.
Smita Singh, M.A., is a assistant professor in the School of Hospitality at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She teaches courses in Event Planning, Special Events Production, Talent Leadership, Event planning for the Professionals as well as Human Resource Management. She also serves as a board member for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, which collaborates with other professionals and industry experts for conducting events and exhibitions.
Prior to coming to MSU Denver, Singh worked at Iowa State University in the College of Human Sciences where she developed an experiential learning environment for classrooms by using real world case studies that included hotels, restaurants, events and other hospitality landscapes. In addition, she also served as an adjunct faculty member for the Institute of Professional Studies in India teaching Risk and Tourism Management.
She worked as an event manager for the Jaypee Group where she planned and organized major tradeshows and conferences within and outside India, coordinated pricing and ticketing strategies as well as managed the finical and business aspects to effectively run events with vendors and clients. Smita also organized and participated in national conferences in Western and Eastern India as well as events in Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok and Sharjah. She helped organize the Formula 1 international race in India and developed the communication and marketing strategy for the event.
Smita is passionate about working with events around community involvement. She worked with Sankalp, a student organization and a non‐profit organization to create awareness and help economically struggling people achieve sustainable development, organized charitable events like Daawat, a fundraising dinner to showcase and raise money for various chosen NGO‐supplied project proposals and helped create a fundraising campaign for oxygen concentrators to combat COVID‐19 in India.`
Smita is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program for hospitality management at Iowa State University. She received her master’s in business administration in 2009 and bachelor’s in engineering from Jaypee College of Business in India 2007.
Eric D. Olson, Ph.D., is the chair of the Rita and Navin Dimond Department of Hotel Management, School of Hospitality, Metropolitan State University of Denver. His areas of expertise include customer service, customer experience, service failure and recovery, LBGTQ tourism and events, events and festivals, hospitality and event management education.
Olson has over 20 years of hospitality, tourism, event and higher education experience. He has published extensively in top academic journals such as Tourism Management, Annals of Tourism Research and Journal of Convention and Event Tourism.
Olson received his Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida, MBA from the Stetson University, and a BBA in marketing from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His academic career includes appointments at Iowa State University, and his industry experience includes working at The Walt Disney World Resort.