University of Southern California

Setting Sights on Hospitality
Group Creates Opportunities for Students Interested in Leisure Industry
April 19, 2009 • by Anne Bergman

When sophomore Tracy Lawrence decided she was interested in a career in hospitality, she saw an opportunity to develop connections within the industry while at USC Marshall. So last fall she helped found the Hospitality Industry Project (HIP), which according to Lawrence is dedicated to pursuits in the hospitality industry.

"Our focus is on educating students about business within hotels, casinos, resorts, and other areas related to the travel industry," she says, all in the hopes of creating opportunities in the hospitality industry and enhancing activities within this area at the school.

The idea took hold when Lawrence, as part of the Global Leadership Program, bonded with her fellow freshmen over the course of their two-unit class led by Dean James G. Ellis. "Five of us had this passion for hospitality," she recalls, adding that their goals were to bolster the academic initiatives and social networking opportunities for students interested in pursuing hospitality careers. "We were taking a risk, as we weren't sure how hospitality would fit into the corporate structure."

Since then, Lawrence, who's the club's president, has seen that hospitality encompasses all of the elements of the corporate structure, from accounting to finance to marketing. The group comprises 50 paid members, who Lawrence says "have decided that it’s a good field for them."

Currently, HIP is working to have hospitality recognized as a senior concentration at Marshall.

And to fuel the social networking, the group has arranged for hospitality professionals, such as Tammy Billings, Director of Marketing for L.A. Live at AEG to come to campus. Billings was the keynote speaker at HIP’s event "Dining with Hospitality" on April 1 at the University Club.

USC students of all majors were encouraged to attend, with the hope that not only would they make social connections, but also connections that could someday get them a job or an internship, such as with Business Administration alum Scott Shuttleworth, USC’s Director of Hospitality, who was also there.

During her remarks, Billings noted that even as recently as one year ago, no one wanted to walk around downtown at night, but that LA Live was changing that dynamic.

"Downtown Los Angeles is a good representation of what the potential of hospitality is," Lawrence, who grew up in Hollywood, said while introducing Billings. "When you see the spotlights of LA Live and the Marriott towers that ascend to the heavens, it hits you right then and there--the only limit for hospitality is the sky."

Next up, the group plans to visit high-end sushi bar Katsuya and the nightclub Boardner's as part of HIP’s Hollywood Expedition Series on April 24. Both venues have sent representatives to network with HIP, which is also taking Corporate Tours of Las Vegas in the fall.

Contact HIP at or visit

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.