Collins College team wins second in New York City competition

A team of six Cal Poly Pomona students from the Collins College of Hospitality Management won second place in the undergraduate division of the 2019 Smith Travel Research (STR) Student Market Competition, held Nov. 10 in New York City. This was the team’s first time entering this competition, involving 25 other colleges.

STR is the main sponsor for the Student Market Competition. According to the CPP hospitality management website, “STR is the leading data analytics provider for the lodging industry. Since its debut in 2015, the STR Student Market Competition has received significant attention from the hospitality programs around the world. The competition took place during the HX: Hotel Experience (Trade) Show in NYC in November 2019.”

Students with their award from the STR Student Market Competition. The first-time participants placed second in the undergraduate division.
(Courtesy of Eric Sepulveda)

Donors from Hospitality Uncorked provided the funds needed for the team to compete in New York City. The hospitality management students on the team included second-year Emily Fedorchek, fourth-year Heather Kingsbury, third-year Devon Lilley, second-year Sean Mayor, second-year Marissa Robledo and fourth-year Natalie Thé.

Hospitality Uncorked is composed of Collins College members, the dean and the Hospitality Management board of advisors.  According to the Hospitality Uncorked website, “Every year, Hospitality Uncorked celebrates the vibrant social and cultural life that has made hospitality the No. 1 industry in Southern California. Proceeds from the evening directly benefit the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona, one of the nation’s premier hospitality management programs.”

The group of students decided to study the hotel market in Seattle. According to the CPP hospitality management website, “The students found that Seattle has been a very dynamic hotel market with significant growth in both lodging supply and demand.” Students were also prepared to answer any questions judges might ask them about their presentation. 

“I focused on a brief overview and introduction to the city of Seattle accompanied (by) a video to introduce the main attractions and demand drivers of the city, and later on I looked at the comparison of data in different geographical areas in the city as well as comparisons of different hotel scales,” Lilley said.

The Collins College team started preparing for the competition in January 2019. Each team member was responsible for a different part of the 25-minute PowerPoint that would be presented in front of judges at the competition.

“At the very beginning, we all were responsible for our individual parts,” Kingsbury said. “After we had one of the most difficult feedback sessions, I ended up stepping up and taking a leadership role and being the one to help unite us as a group and make sure that we all had the same goals for the competition. During the presentation I was responsible for talking about the current statistics and the trended data for the Seattle market.”

The entire team is proud of its high-placement score. 

“I am very thrilled that the team placed second,” Thé said. “Being the first team from CPP and competing against schools that have already done the competition several times, I believe we did really well.”

This winning team will not be competing together in the future. “Some are graduating and some also made other commitments for the future. This competition team was asked to do a one-year commitment and they fulfilled that duty,” Communication Specialist Eric Sepulveda said.

“(The competition) definitely helped with my confidence in public speaking and being able to not just understand large amounts of data but be able to connect it to concepts we see in the real world and use the numbers to explain it,” Lilley said. “It also helped me gain some perspective on how supportive the Collins College is, because it really did take a village to get us from Building 80 up the hill all the way to New York.”

The Student Market Competition and the CPP team have been featured on several established websites like, and more. To see a play-by-play video of the team’s second place victory, go to 

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