The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Harrah College of Hospitality, and The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), in partnership with the Women’s Hospitality Initiative (WHI) has announced the lineup of acclaimed guest speakers and curriculum topics for its first-ever Bachelor’s degree-level course examining women’s leadership and management, gender disparities, and diversity in the restaurant and culinary industries.

From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership for Women in Hospitality begins its guest speaker series on Monday, September 14, with an appearance by WHI co-founder and Blau + Associates founder and Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Blau, who will discuss the “Business Case for Women in Leadership” and how women can demonstrate their value, grow their business, and stay ahead of the industry challenges that up-and-coming leaders face.

“Achieving leadership and management roles has long been a struggle for women in the restaurant and hospitality industries,” explains Ms. Blau, who is also a CIA Trustee. “We are fortunate that so many of our industries’ most recognized women are willing to step forward, share their perspective, and offer the guidance and mentorship opportunities that will be vital to launching these students’ careers.

“Together, we can enhance these women’s critical thinking skills and prepare them to be compassionate leaders to confront the myriad obstacles facing this industry.”

As part of the groundbreaking introduction of From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership for Women in Hospitality, the course will be taught simultaneously, via livestream, to CIA’s Hyde Park, NY students.

The foundation of this course is based on research and interviews conducted by WHI Co-Founder, Mary Choi Kelly PhD with successful women leaders in the hospitality industry.  The themes from these interviews were identified to create a leadership “Recipe for Success” and roadmap for women in the industry that can be applied at all levels―high school, university students and mid-career.

The lineup of guest speakers and topics includes:

Sept. 14 – Elizabeth Blau, Blau + Associates and WHI

The Business Case for Women in Leadership

Sept. 21 – Mary Choi Kelly, MCK Leadership Talent Group LLC and WHI

Defining your Personal Leadership Brand

Sept. 28 – Joanna James, A Fine Line director and producer

Conversation with “A Fine Line” Movie Producer

Oct. 5   –  Jennifer Murphy, Executive Chef, Caesars Palace

      Janine Jaffer, Executive Chef, Shiraz Restaurant

Building a Team, Team Dynamics and Transitioning from Peer to Leader

Oct. 12  –  Michelle DiTondo, Principal, Avion Consulting

The Importance of Continuous Learning 

Oct. 19  – Corrine Clement, Founder, DEI Institute

Understanding Unconscious Bias and EQ

Oct. 26  –  Punam Mathur, Executive Director, Elaine Wynn & Family Foundation

Navigating Politics and Power Dynamics

Nov. 2  –   Olivia Brown, CEO & Co-Founder, Heritage Consulting by B+R, LLC

                   Building Relationships, Networks and Allies

Nov. 9   –  Daniela Soto-Innes, Partner, Elio Las Vegas, Cosme NYC, Atla NYC

       Sarah Thompson, Executive Chef, Elio Las Vegas

      Redefining the Kitchen Culture to Build Inclusion

Nov. 16  –  Kathy Merget, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students, CIA

        How Self-care, Personal Wellness and Paid Family Leave Impact Women

Nov. 23  –  Jean Hagen, Principal, Business Management, Krost CPA

Building a Career in Hospitality

Nov. 30  –  Jolene Mannina, President, and WHI; Elizabeth Blau

Entrepreneur Leadership in the Restaurant Industry

The guest speaker series will feature a 30- to 45-minute lecture from women business leaders followed by a 30- to 45-minute Q&A with students. Questions can be submitted during the live session using an app managed by course instructors Dr. Marla Royne Stafford, Ph.D., the UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality’s Executive Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Dr. Joy Dickerson, CIA Associate Professor of Business Management.

The first semester of From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership for Women in Hospitality will conclude on December 7, 2020.

About Women’s Hospitality Initiative

Co-Founded by Elizabeth Blau (Blau & Associates), Mary Choi-Kelly (MCK Leadership Talent Group), and Jolene Mannina (SecretBurger), The Women’s Hospitality Initiative is committed to developing and implementing programs for the women to grow and achieve leadership positions in the restaurant community, and is a component fund of Nevada Community Foundation, an exempt public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, EIN 88-0241420. For more information, please visit

About Harrah College of Hospitality

The UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality is consistently ranked as one of the top hospitality programs in the world. Studying just blocks away from the epicenter of the hospitality industry – the Las Vegas Strip, UNLV hospitality students enjoy unparalleled opportunities to gain hands-on, industry-relevant experience. Each year the college organizes nearly 600 internships, welcomes more than 100 national hospitality brands to recruitment events, and pairs and average of 175 industry mentors with students. And the recent completion of the college’s new state-of-the-art academic building Hospitality Hall, students are helping the college usher in a new era of excellence in hospitality education.

About The Culinary Institute of America

Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to developing leaders in foodservice and hospitality, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers master’s, bachelor’s, and associate degrees with majors in culinary arts, baking & pastry arts, food business management, hospitality management, culinary science, and applied food studies. Its conferences, leadership initiatives, and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry and its worldwide network of more than 50,000 alumni includes innovators in every area of the food world. The CIA has locations in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore. For more information, visit