March 28, 2017
The San Diego State University Hospitality & Tourism (HTM) Master’s Program creates lifelong bonds between colleagues, mentors, and professors. We keep in close contact with our alumni, many of whom have gone on to hold leadership positions with the most recognized names in hospitality and tourism.
We recently had the chance to catch up with Vince LaRuffa, a member of Cohort Two (2013-2014) and HTM Master’s graduate. Learn a little more about Vince and gain his insight on the HTM Master’s Program below.
Vince is the Senior Vice President of Resort Sales and Marketing for Universal Orlando Resort and has been with the organization since 2003. He is responsible for the achievement of on-site hotel revenues and folding five hotels into all appropriate Universal Orlando messaging and programming.
Vince holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Marketing from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and a Master’s in Hospitality & Tourism from the Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University. He possesses a combined 34 years of hospitality sales and marketing experience working with a variety of brands including Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels, and Crestline Hotels and Resorts. Prior to joining Universal, he served as Vice President, Convention Sales and Services for Visit Orlando.
Vince currently holds professional affiliations with MPI and HSMAI, and served for five years on the MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees, including a term as Chairman. He is a former board member of Canine Companions for Independence and former Chairman of the Universal Orlando Volunteer Board. He has also served as Chairman (2007-2016) for the Universal Orlando Foundation Charity Classic Charity Event Silent Auction.
Vince has been married for 25 years to Jennifer Kuehl LaRuffa and has three daughters, ages 23, 19, and 15.
Why did you join the HTM Master’s Program, and how did it enhance your career?
I was at a point in my career where I was experiencing what I might refer to as “intellectual hibernation.” I had gotten somewhat comfortable in my role at Universal and was looking to challenge myself and stimulate some new thinking. The way the HTM Master’s program was structured seemed to be a perfect fit for the working professional, and it proved to be just that.
Throughout the program, I discovered “holes” in my business knowledge. The coursework helped to bolster my knowledge base and enabled me to find a fresh outlook on my career and role at Universal.
What did you find to be the most valuable part of the program?
Even with many years of business experience, the opportunity to befriend, interact with, and be mentored by influencers like Jeff Campbell was a tremendous advantage for me. Jeff and I had frequent conversations, not just about the coursework, but about the application of the knowledge I was acquiring. I was able to get his direct input on situations, challenges, and organizational dynamics I was encountering in my professional life.
What was your Capstone Project?
I chose to do a project based on the repositioning of the Universal Orlando Meetings & Events brand. We conducted a deep dive into all aspects of the brand, including survey work designed to generate insight into our various audiences, which helped us understand how we were being perceived by our core customer groups.
We matched the survey responses with surveys of our internal team, to observe any gaps that may exist between our perceptions of ourselves and those of our clientele. Our work extended a year and a half beyond the submission of my project, and it was extremely valuable in helping to shape the way we present our Meetings & Events brand—from the type of language we use to describe it, to the materials we use to sell it, to the things we emphasize as we communicate with meeting and event planners.
What is your advice to HTM Master’s students or prospective students?
Everyone at every level needs to understand that organizations are placing a high value on the ability to collaborate. Use the HTM Master’s Program to network and improve your ability to work well with others. Take the work seriously, and apply your learnings to your current work situation and pursuit of your career goals.
Joining the HTM Master’s Program was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s top-notch in every respect, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to enhance their business knowledge and skill.
Is the HTM Master’s Program right for you? Click here for 90-second overview of what you’ll gain by joining.