Students connect with professionals

By Ryan Fitzgerald, Tristan Davis, Alex Balletto – Co-Editor-in-Chief, Features Editor, 1851 Staff

March observed Daylight Savings Time in most of the world, but on the Lasell campus, it was also a month of “days” to save: Hospitality Day (March 2), COM Day (March 8), and Fashion Day (March 22).

Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Michael Rezendes speaks to students in de Witt Hall on COM Day.

The Hospitality department held its second annual Hospitality Day, planned by students, for students. The day was plentiful with students connecting with professionals, educating themselves on the various branches of the industry.

“Hospitality Day is about making a choice to do more, meet more, learn more, and be more,” said head coordinator, senior Deirdre Duddy-Kennedy. “We want students to dis- cover the endless opportunities that can come from the value of education and networking.”

Hospitality Day was coordinated by Duddy-Kennedy, an event management student, senior Briana Penney, a public relations student, and sophomores Alexandra Hoffman and Lauren DiGiandomenico, event management students respectively.

The day started off with a keynote address from David Giblin, Vice President of Sales at Marriott International Inc., followed by an alumni panel discussion, featuring Shannon Pasco (2015 graduate), Amy Sleeper, Jillian Riches, and Eric Default (all 2013 graduates).

Subsequent to lunch, there was a career and internship fair with nearly 40 professional booths, quite a jump from last year, where there were 17 booths.

“Two years later this event is bigger and better than I ever imagined it to be,” said Duddy-Kennedy.

Hospitality Day hosted many professionals including this panel to share advice and experiences with students.

In her sophomore year, Duddy-Kennedy had a dream of something like Hospitality Day; she felt as if event management was heavily based on skill, experience, and networking. She traveled abroad her junior year, but recruited Penney, and her adviser Melissa Varao who both coordinated the event with her halfway around the globe.

The need for the event was a nobrainer to Duddy-Kennedy, however, the planning of the day is not as easy as coming up with the idea. The work and efforts of over a year are for a seven hour event. “The devil is in the details and the planning process is never-ending, however the reward is always worth it,” said Duddy-Kennedy.

Hospitality Day opened many doors for students either majoring or minoring in hospitality, event management, and resort and casino management. Sophomores Hoffman, DiGiandomenico, and Madison Garside will take over Hospitality Day planning once Duddy-Kennedy and Penney graduate this May. Duddy-Kennedy has no worries leaving Hospitality Day in their hands.

Her favorite part about the new coordinators is that they are so proud of the event, exemplifying it in their enthusiasm. To Duddy-Kennedy, Hospitality Day is the most rewarding, emotional, fulfilling, and incredible experience of her undergraduate career. “It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.”

The annual COM Day, held on Tuesday, March 8, in de Witt Hall, was organized by Dr. Erin Vicente of the Communication department, and highlighted by keynote speaker Michael Rezendes, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter of the Boston Globe Spotlight team. This year’s Oscar for Best Picture was awarded to “Spotlight,” a film about the team’s investigation and discovery of sexual abuse committed by priests in the Catholic Church of Boston in 2001. Rezendes was played by actor Mark Ruffalo in the film.

The journalist shared the story of the Spotlight team and expressed the importance of journalism in the world. “It’s only journalists that hold powerful institutions and powerful people accountable for what they do and what they say,” said Rezendes as he stood behind the podium in de Witt Hall. “Without an informed citizenry, democracy doesn’t function. And it’s only through journalism that we have an informed citizenry.”

Some students had not yet seen the film, but after Rezendes spoke, that changed. “I enjoyed his personal stories and he inspired me to see the movie,” said junior James Payne.

The events began at 9:00 a.m. with morning registration and a welcome message from Dr. Janice Barrett, Chair of the Department of Communication. The first event of the day, Strategies in Social Media, consisted of a panel of communication professionals that included Lasell graduate Zac Vierra (’13), Social Media Coordinator for Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

The panel offered advice to how to use social media both professionally and personally. The days Distinguished Speaker was Dr. Brenda Wrigley, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Marketing and Communication at Emerson College. Dr. Wrigley spoke about women’s role in professional media. “You need to have some guts,” said Wrigley. “Women are not socialized to negotiate salaries so you need to decide who [you are] and what [you can] put up with.”


Rezendes spoke from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. to an expectedly packed audience. Students, faculty and staff members were present for the event, and many communication students felt inspired afterward.

“It was awesome,” said senior Samantha Buote. “I watched the movie this week so having it fresh in my mind and seeing him speak was really cool.” After Rezendes’ speech, a long line of students formed to meet him, some communication students wished for a closer interview. “I thought the speech was really interesting, but I kind of wish we could have met him in a smaller group [of] just journalism students,” said junior Taylor Ritchie.

The day concluded with an Alumni Panel from 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., consisting of eight Lasell graduates from the classes of 2014 and 2015. The panel answered questions written by students in Professor Marie Franklin’s Journalism II class and members in attendance. Members of the panel included former editors of “1851 Chronicle” Natalie Kfoury, Kristina Kaufmann, and Brianna Robbins.

Lasell graduate of 2007 and former “Project Runway” star Sonjia Williams highlighted the first-annual Fashion Day held in de Witt Hall, speaking to students about how to succeed in the fashion industry. Williams was featured in two separate seasons of the acclaimed Lifetime series starring Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum, finishing strong and earning a spot on the runway at New York Fashion Week.

Williams’ keynote address was followed by two rounds of breakout sessions, which featured fashion professionals Sam Sisakhti of UsTrendy, Lindsay Reilly of Lindsay Tia Designs, Kathy Benharris of KB Productions, and Isabel Carter, a former designer at Burberry.

“Watching and listening to today’s speakers was motivating and inspiring. As a first year fashion design student it’s hard to see past the small walls of the sewing lab, but today’s alumni [panel] opened my eyes to opportunities that could be available to me after college,” said freshman Libby Castaldi.

The day concluded with an alumni panel, which consisting of Lindsay Reilly, Mariah LeBlanc, James Martin, and Ginnie Chow. The event was coordinated by fashion communication senior Meghan Sapienza, who felt Williams’ presence drew in a large crowd. “I think a lot of the designers that are creating their senior collections can really benefit from what she had to say and take away a lot of tips,” said Sapienza.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: