Class of 2014
For Stephen Breedon ’14, every aspect of Cornell life has one thing in common: connecting with people and seeing new perspectives.
Although Breedon grew up watching cooking shows, visiting places like Atlantic City, and studying culinary arts and hotel management, now he concentrates his studies on finance, accounting, and real estate. To pursue a career in hospitality, he thought applying to the Cornell School of Hotel Administration (SHA) would be the logical next step.
With what he calls SHA's “incredible” range of exposure to the hospitality world, Breedon says it was difficult to have tunnel vision. “The people around you provide so much perspective and opportunity.”
Now interested in the detailed processes behind financing, acquiring, and selling real estate, Breedon says he was amazed to discover how often deals are driven by social aspects and relationships. “I always knew I wanted to do something with people and about people,” he says, and on his new career path he can.
Interpersonal connections define not only Breedon’s academic path but also his involvement in Student Assembly. He is currently the SHA representative and vice president of public relations for the assembly, where he has focused his attention on issues related to diversity and inclusion at Cornell.
“Diversity is about inviting different people to the table. Inclusion is about getting all of those different people at the table to feel as though they’re part of the discussion and really part of the community,” Breedon explains.
He says Student Assembly has taught him the importance of acknowledging and harnessing a range of perspectives. “It’s all about the consideration of new ideas.”
In addition to his role on the assembly, Breedon serves as treasurer of Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate (SWAG). By creating mentorships between upperclassmen and first-year students, SWAG works to increase the graduation rate of African American men on campus and to positively influence the dynamics and culture of the community.
What’s more, he’s on the Dean’s Advisory Board and works as a liaison between the administration and students at SHA.
Adding to his resume, Breedon interned at Chartres Lodging in San Francisco last summer, a firm owned by an SHA alum, for a chance to meet new people and experience a subject he was not familiar with: hotel acquisitions and asset management. With the help of funding from the Cornell Tradition, Breedon spent the summer learning about long-term investment strategy, the financial side of hotel acquisition and operations, and, of course, the social aspects of dealing with stakeholders and business partners. With funding from the Cornell Tradition Fellowship, he was even able to tour the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco.
Although Breedon is involved in groups that span the breadth of campus and has interned on the other side of the country, he thrives most on the social, energetic atmosphere within the walls of the School of Hotel Administation. His experience, he says, has been like no other.
“The Hotel School prides itself on case studies and practical application. Whether it’s qualitative or quantitative, we’re always talking about how it relates to the real world,” he says. “Being at the Hotel School during the academic year is almost like having an internship. It’s that helpful.”
Breedon smiles as he looks around at the hotelies gathered among couches and desks. “I can’t believe they call this place a library because people are always talking,” he jokes. “It’s more like a lounge.” And he’s not the only hotelie who appreciates a good conversation.
“There’s a magnetism in the Hotel School—we just love interacting with people, we love talking with people,” Breedon says. He describes the culture as very social, where it’s customary to see students chatting and dressed in business-professional clothes, especially for the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture on Fridays.
Breedon plans to continue to serve on the Student Assembly and work for the student body during his final year at Cornell. This summer, he hopes to broaden his own perspective by stepping back from the world of hotels and interning at a company where he can learn more about real estate in general.
Even so, he has no problem being known as “the hotel guy“ next year and far into the future.
“Something happens here that makes people so proud,” he says. “And they never forget that.”