Guest Speaker Series

This page will highlight the professional guests whom we have been proud to welcome during the HSMAI.tucc Brings the Industry to You speaker series. You can also get some insight on those to come!
March 1, 2011
                                    Greg Bodenlos, Internet Marketing Manager, The Fairmount Southampton, Bermuda
  Greg is a recent graduate of the School of Hotel Administration at
Cornell University, with a career interest in online marketing and
brand management.  In July, Greg joined the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
family as Manager of Internet Marketing for The Fairmont Southampton
in Bermuda.  Excitingly, Greg is the first Internet Marketing Manager
to represent one property across the entire Fairmont Raffles Hotels
International (FRHI) organization.
During his tenure at Cornell University, Greg pursued his passions
through a variety of leadership positions within both the Hotel School
and Cornell’s community at large.  As Director of Student Affairs for
the Cornell Hotel Society, Collegiate Chapter, he was responsible for
coordinating all of the Hotel School’s school-wide events, including
spearheading planning for CHS’ 150-student trip to the International
Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show.
In addition to his Hotel School obligations – which also included
supporting two core curriculum classes as a Teaching Assistant and
serving as an Orientation Supervisor – Greg also served as Treasurer
for the Delta Phi Fraternity, managing the annual budget.  Greg has
spent his previous summers supporting the Mandarin Oriental, New York,
the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, as well as the Professional
Development Program at Cornell University, in a variety of different
roles.  His proudest achievement, however, at Cornell was his
leadership role as President of its HSMAI Collegiate Chapter.  Greg
served as President of the chapter for the past five semesters and
relished the opportunity to continue the Chapter’s positive growth in
membership and activity it has seen over the past year. 
September 22, 2010

Rasa Vella, Founder of DeTours Touring Company

Rasa Vella graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelors degree in Marketing and Entrepreneurship and continued her education at Temple University earning her Masters degree in Sports and Recreation Tourism.  Vella has worked across the country and around the world for such organizations as: Palace Sports and Entertainment, Seattle Supersonics, Semester at Sea accredited by the University of Virginia, United States Peace Corps, Drexel University Recreation Department, Kapawi Ecolodge and Reserve in Ecuador, and Comcast Spectacor.  On June 28th, 2010, Vella opened her own business, DeTours Touring in Philadelphia, PA.

March 2, 2010

Jim O'Donnell, Hotel Sales Manager at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

James is a bright and dedicated hotel executive. He manages the profitable growth of rooms revenue for an area consisting of two hotels: Borgata and The Water Club, which combine to offer 2,800 guest rooms, three acres of casino gaming and 100,000+ square feet of event space.

In 2009, James completed his Master of Tourism & Hospitality Management degree at Temple University, where he earned the "Dean's Certificate of Excellence" and "Outstanding Graduate Student" awards, based on his “excellence in scholarship, service and professional involvement.” In addition, the Atlantic City Hotel & Lodging Association honored James with the Association's scholarship award in 2009.

James’ research article, “Economies of Scale and the Atlantic City Casino Industry,” co-authored with Wesley S. Roehl PhD and Seoki Lee PhD, was published and awarded "Best Paper" in the conference refereed track at the International Council of Hotel Restaurant and Institutional Education in July 2009.

Prior to joining Borgata in March 2008, James progressed through management positions with Omni Hotels in Philadelphia and New York. Most recently, James held the position of Senior Business Travel Sales Manager at the Omni Berkshire Place in New York, NY. In 2007, James generated the Highest Revenue Over Goal amongst all Omni Hotels. Prior to joining Omni Hotels, James held operations and management positions with Temple University Housing, the Latham Hotel (Philadelphia) and Oakwood Corporate Housing.

James is a member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), Meeting Planners International (MPI) and the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives (MASAE).

February 1, 2010



Adeline Abdesaken currently serves as tourism services manager for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PCVB). In this position, Abdesaken provides client service support for the tourism department including planning and coordinating familiarization tours, site inspections and industry meetings to promote Philadelphia as a destination. She also works directly with the director of tourism sales on development and implementation of sales programs and client servicing in targeted international markets including the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Ireland and emerging markets, in conjunction with the PCVB’s international consumer marketing campaign.

Abdesaken previously worked for The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, as a program assistant and executive assistant. Her responsibilities include scheduling, assistance at meetings and other administrative duties. She also managed membership services and administration, implemented a Web-based database, and coordinated the update of their Web site.

Abdesaken is a graduate of Drexel University with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. She speaks Farsi and Spanish and has some knowledge of Chinese, German and Italian. 

Ryan O’Connor, Tourism Sales Manager

Ryan O’Connor currently serves as the Tourism Sales Manager for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PCVB).  In this position, O’Connor sells and markets Philadelphia as a group tour destination to Tour Operators and Travel Agents in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  He is also responsible for the development and implementation of the domestic advertising campaign which directly targets the group tour industry. 

O’Connor started in the hospitality industry with Entertainment Cruises formally, Spirit Cruises in Norfolk, Virginia as an intern.  Throughout a five year career with Entertainment Cruises he has served as the Individual Sales Manager, Administrative Manager, and most recently as the Tourism Sales Manager for the Spirit of Philadelphia.

O’Connor is a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management.  He serves on the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of HSMAI’s Board of Directors as the Secretary Treasurer.   

December 7, 2009 - Leadership 360 Panelists
Amy Skiles - Senior VP of Business Development/Client Service
Phoenix Design Works - Professional and Collegiate Sports Marketing and Branding
Tanya Hall - Executive Director
Philadelphia Mulicultural Affairs Congress (A division of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau)
Christopher Fields - Food & Beverage Manager
Aramark/USS Battleship New Jersey
Dr. Jane Cowley- Public Affairs Officer
Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia
Richard Ridall - Director of the Center for Student Professional Development
Formerly the National Sales Director for Comcast-Spectacor
November 16, 2009
Jill Holder, STHM Grad Student

Jill Holder is currently a graduate student in the School of Tourism and Hospitality.  Before becoming a full time student (again!), she was a restaurant & bar manager for two industry leaders: Starr Restaurants here in Philadelphia and W Hotels in San Diego, CA.  After six years of honing her skills at Rice, Striped Bass, Barclay Prime, Washington Square, and most recently at El Vez, she has decided to obtain her master’s degree in tourism and venture into the field of tourism marketing.  She is excited about coming to speak to the members of HS
MAI and tell
them everything they ever wanted to know (and a few things they didn’t) about the business!

October 5, 2009

Robert Weinberg, Co-owner

City Food Tours - Philadelphia

Originally from New York, Robert moved to Philadelphia 23 years ago to attend the University of Pennsylvania where he majored in Japanese (blame the movie “Shogun”). While at Penn, he attended the New York Restaurant School and graduated with honors. He subsequently attended classes at the International Pastry Arts Center in N. White Plains, NY. After completing his degree at Penn, he spent time studying in Japan. Upon returning to the U.S., Robert fulfilled his dream of becoming a restaurateur and opened Beyond Measure in Center City with his sister, and founder of City Food Tours, Joyce Weinberg. 

The unique concept behind City Food Tours was developed in New York City in 2002 when Robert's sister, a seasoned food industry professional with more than 20 years of experience, wanted to share her passion for fine foods.

After five successful years in NYC, local business partners Eric Matzke and Robert Weinberg brought City Food Tours to Philadelphia.  Compared to other existing tours that focus on more common foods, CFT introduces tour guests to a vast offering of high-quality foods and encourage them to support local specialty stores, farmers, and sustainable agriculture.  We help people realize that there’s a lot more out there than the processed foods they encounter in mega-marts.

September 8, 2009

Charisse McGill, Founder of Ardent Meeting & Event Management
  •  Ardent Meeting & Event Management Company is a full service meeting
     and event company doing corporate and social events as well as contract
     marketing and advertising. Ardent has worked with the Atlantic 10
     Conference, the Special Olympics and the American Heart Association. 

     Charisse is also an STHM alum!!