Marla Royne Stafford recently trekked across the country to plant new roots at UNLV. Her inspiration? The opportunity to work with some great minds and help build academic programs for the burgeoning Hospitality College.
Stafford is no stranger to working at the highest levels of college administration. This Chicago transplant took on her new role as executive associate dean of academic affairs for the College of Hospitality after serving as both department chair and interim dean at the University of Memphis’ Fogelman College of Business and Economics. Stafford’s experience leading faculty — along with her extensive research background in marketing, advertising, and services — makes her a perfect fit for the Hospitality College.
Your role at the Hospitality College
As the executive associate dean of academic affairs, I will serve as the college’s chief academic officer. That means I will be leading faculty with new initiatives, growing and promoting academic programs, working to build our research, and helping students as they move forward in their studies.
The opportunity was very exciting to me. The Hospitality College is one of the top programs in the world, and it’s right here in Las Vegas, which makes it very unique. I’m very excited to help further the college’s mission and be part of the team that will continue to raise its profile.
Where you are from
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and I always say Chicago is a great place to be from. The city has many wonderful things to offer and I’ve enjoyed visiting there, but I have no desire to move back.
The best surprise about moving to Las Vegas
I have some cousins who moved to Las Vegas from Chicago in 1979 and have been here ever since. All three of their kids actually went to UNLV. So, it has been nice getting to know a lot of extended family I had never met before.
Your inspiration to get into academics
A few faculty members at Rollins College in Florida, where I got my MBA, recommended that I get my Ph.D. They thought it would be a great fit for me, so I left my corporate job at Tupperware Worldwide and got my Ph.D. in marketing. It completely changed my career path into academia.
Something people would be surprised to learn about you
I started college when I was 16 and studied theater at a university in Illinois. Then at 17, I transferred to the University of Arizona and studied speech communication.
Your research passion
I have always enjoyed advertising research, but these days I’m passionate about consumer well-being in regard to health care and environmental issues. Dean Stowe Shoemaker and I have talked about the health care industry and how it relates to hospitality. We think there is a lot of opportunity in this area.
Given your background, how do you fit in with the Hospitality College?
I have done a lot of research work in services — everything from the quality of services to the advertising of services — and I’ve used restaurants and hotels in that research. My background is in marketing, advertising, and services, and I think that transitions nicely into the hospitality arena.
In Tennessee, I was a member of the Memphis chapter of the Sweet Adelines International, and I’m looking into the possibility of becoming involved with a local chapter here. I also love theater, but besides the Sweet Adelines, it’s been a long time since I was really involved with that.
Advice for students
Don’t feel like you have to decide what you want to do the rest of your life when you’re only 18. Learn as much as you can about different things, but don’t rush it. Find your passion, and once you do, stick with it as long as it stays your passion.
Your favorite quote
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.
I like this quote because I will always remember how people have made me feel and how that has affected me. On the other hand, students have shared with me how I have made them feel over the years and how I’ve influenced them. It’s a way that we can make a difference in their lives.