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The senior living industry has a voice. You can hear it on Bridge the Gap podcast!

168: Leora Lanz

In the fall of 2021, Boston University School of Hospitality is offering a new master’s level concentration in Senior Living. Leora Lanz, Chair of Master of Management in Hospitality discusses opportunities for students to gain a deeper understanding of the industry!
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Introduced by BTG Ambassador Zach Bowyer

Lucas: Welcome to Bridge the Gap Podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. And guess what? On today’s episode, we’re going to take you to school. You know, Josh I’ve joked before, well not joked. I mean, I guess kind of joked, but I’ve said if people listen to the Bridge the Gap Network for an extended period of time, you’re going to get a master’s degree in senior living. So obviously you can’t get a master’s degree from Bridge the Gap just yet, but we have someone on the program today that can actually get you a master’s degree in senior living. And we want to welcome Leora Lanz, she’s a faculty chair at Boston University School of Hospitality Administration’s Master’s of Management and Hospitality. And we are going to talk about their brand new program starting in the fall, it’s a masters in senior living, welcome to the program.

 

Leora: Thank you very much, Josh and Lucas. And we’ll make sure that the Bridge the Gap Podcast is part of our master’s program. So we can, we can work on that, no problem.

 

Lucas: Absolutely, we say all the time that we’re better together and we’re really happy to get connected to you from one of our great ambassadors, Zach Boyer, he gave us this introduction and we had a conversation. We thought our listeners really do need to hear this. So Leora, as we’re getting started here, we’re going to talk about elements of the program. The why behind the program, why would Boston University even be doing this? Talk about some scholarships, talk about some upcoming things coming you know down the line here. So let’s start by, I know you have a background in hospitality and so how did you get, where did your attention swing to senior living and why is Boston University focused on this?

 

Leora: Yeah, thank you for asking. My background personally, is definitely in the lodging and hospitality and tourism business. My personal connection to senior living was personal, a family situation; my in-laws. So that was sort of my first experience in dealing with just understanding some element of senior housing, because the more I’ve learned about it, the more I realized how much I don’t know, there’s so much out there. But the truth is we’ve had a handful of students, even in our undergraduate program who came into our program with a passion for senior living. And we thought, really, how do you know, at 16 years old that you actually want to pursue this as a living? And the more we’ve seen their careers progress in the business and the more we’ve identified, the intersection of hospitality and the need for understanding how to create a great human experience and how some of the skill sets that we learn in hospitality can actually transcend right into senior living and seniors housing, the more we felt this was a good fit. Our master’s program is only a few years old and so we’re looking to grow our program. And so we started to explore and research senior living, and we actually looked to also explore healthcare and hospitality, but the more we dived into senior living seniors housing, the more we found a lot of parallels and connections that just made sense from operations to development, to the guest experience or the residents experience to understanding the monitoring the human journey through all paths. It just made sense. We put together just an initial set of classes based on research that the university approved, as soon as we announced it, which was basically on LinkedIn and through some digital media within that first week, I personally, must’ve gotten 10 or 12 phone calls from senior living companies saying, this is great. How can we connect with you? What can we do together? So right now it’s still a seedling we’re just launching for next year. We are still looking to build the first cohort of students, which we’ll talk about I’m sure in a few minutes, but, um, we feel strongly that there’s real growth potential here, and we’re dipping our toe in the water now, but we’re hoping to really sort of take a deeper dive soon.

 

Josh: This is very exciting Leora. So tell us more about the specific program for those that the antenna has now raised and they’re wanting to learn more, tell us more about what the program looks like, what a student would and should expect.

 

Leora: Sure, sure, thanks for asking. So our program, here’s the good news. I don’t know, when I got my master’s degree, which was a long time ago, it took a long time to get there this year. This year students want to get in and get out. So the master’s program is one year, but it’s a rigorous year. You gotta work for it. You know, you’re still earning a master’s degree. And in our first semester, in the fall, if students are coming full time, it’s four classes that are really business and leadership focused. It is a course in leadership. It’s a course in branding and marketing. It’s a course in operations and it’s a course in financial management in the spring, the next set of four courses or the opportunity to take electives where you can have a concentration. So you don’t have to have a concentration. We’ve got a few related to the traditional aspects of hospitality, real estate, revenue management, digital marketing, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and our newest one in restaurant management and experiences, which we’re all living through, why we needed this master’s concentration in that and senior living. And to have a concentration means three of your four courses would be related to that field. And so the three classes that we are offering in our school of hospitality at BU related to senior living, one is focused on operations. One is focused on the economics and the business of seniors housing. And the third is monitoring that resident journey, which is really core to who we are as a school, because we work so hard to really create positive, memorable human interactions and experiences. So those are our three core courses. And the great news is some of the other colleges at Boston University also joined us. They’re thrilled that we’re having this program. And so the school of public health and the school of social work have some other electives that our students can also take as a potential fourth course, if they wished, and then you would graduate with a master of management in hospitality, concentration in senior living.

 

Josh: I love that. So this fall, fall of 2021, that will be the first cohort that goes through this program. So I’m assuming right now, as we speak, as this podcast is being recorded and launched, you are accepting applications, is that correct?

 

Leora: That’s correct. And come on in, come join us because we’re eager to welcome this passionate group of students to go into this field. Yes, we are accepting applications at this point. I mean, May 1st is actually Saturday, right? So after May 1st it’s rolling admission. So we’ll take the application straight through the summer and we’re really looking for folks, you know, the more we researched the business that you’re actually in and now we’ve gotten a passion for the more we’ve learned about senior living. The more we see how passionate everybody is about this business, about doing something that’s right for all of our futures and making aging. And so really what we want to see in these applications are, do you have that passion? That’s what we want to hear and feel from the applications. So that’s what’s required.

 

Josh: Awesome. So you got me excited and you probably got a lot of other people excited because Lucas and I have talked about this, there hasn’t been at the university level, very much conversation about senior living. I know I almost every semester get the opportunity to talk with a university here in Knoxville, Tennessee. And I go in and talk to even senior level students that have never even heard of senior living. So this is exciting to hear the program is out there, that you can begin to maybe even recruit new people that had never thought about senior housing, because we need a lot of workers. And then it’s also exciting because I think there’s a lot of people that come up through senior living that really need maybe they are, they are at a level where they have been working up through the ranks, but they could use a lot of other more cross-functional tools in their tool belt and some learning, um, to help them even be a better executive to go to the next level. Can you talk a little bit more, we know passion is a requirement, are there any other prerequisites that a student or prospective student that’s making that application should be getting ready for as part of that application process?

 

Leora: Yeah, certainly. So we are a master’s program, not an undergraduate program. And so for students who might be coming directly from college, clearly you need to have great grades, because that is a requirement and a criteria for us. But to be honest, master’s degrees are designed for lots of purposes. And I remember this one, I got my masters a long time ago. You had folks that were clearly interested in that business. You had folks that were career changers and we’re trying to explore and find new paths for themselves. And then you had folks that companies were sending, they didn’t really want to be there. They had to be there for their job, right? So master’s degrees always have this sort of really interesting dichotomy of who makes up that student population. And I would say for folks coming right out of college, show us your strengths in your application. Hopefully the grades are there, but if they’re not there, there is definitely something strong about you for you to be able to consider this master’s degree in this particular area, tell us what that is. You know, the great news is in our application, which I have to tell you, it’s really simple. It’s filling out all the data that you need to tell us about yourself, so we know how to contact you with a personal statement and a video statement this way we get to see and feel you and just share with us what that’s about for folks who might be years out of school, whether it’s two years out of school, 20 years out of school, or what we found this year in our hospitality masters, we’ve had folks 40 years out of school and we’re getting a lot more of those folks too, which is great because to your point, Josh, they want a refresher it’s time to just get back into some kind of an stimulating academic environment for inspiration. And regardless of how long you were out of school, tell us what you’ve done and why this makes sense for you. And we want to make it work. So hopefully that helps answer your question. 

 

Josh: It really does. And you know, so the next thing on my mind is when I think about education, I think, you know, especially at a master’s level, this can be from a major university. This can be a big investment into yourself or into someone in your organization. What type of programs do you all maybe have that for that person that’s looking for? Oh my gosh, am I, am I going to get to it? Tuition assistance? Are there scholarships available if I apply? Can you kind of address that financial part of the program?

 

Leora: Yeah, sure. Because that is a very important part of the program because it is a big investment. So, the clear answer scholarships are available, guys, scholarships are available. So please don’t let the financial aspect of this hold you back from trying to pursue your next step or your dream. The scholarships are there. We are also actively looking to work with senior living companies who themselves, in terms of an employee retention tool. If they want to help sponsor one of their own high-performing high-achieving employees, where they know there’s longevity and a good path for them to stay with the company, because in senior living the same issue is true of traditional hospitality. It’s hard to find good talent. So how do we keep them? So if there’s a way to sponsor them to get their masters and maybe work part time and go part-time to school with us, we’ll tuition match. So we’re eager to strengthen this program and build this program and we’re eager to work with the companies that care about their employees in senior living to make it work. We want to show that we really want to get integrated into the sector.

 

Josh: So if you’re a student looking to become part of that, there are scholarships available. Also, what I heard you say is that if you’re a company wanting to get in some way, a systematic programmatic way of employee retention or reward system training programs that you guys are actively looking for partnerships, that kind of leads me to the next question. If I’m a prospective student, I know different universities, different schools do programs different ways from a time standpoint; virtual versus on campus time and all the things that are going on right now. What does that physically look like from a time commitment to go through your program? And you did say it’s one year, but it’s a very intensive year. So what is that you’re going to look like from a time commitment standpoint?

 

Leora: That’s a good question, because that is a question every student asks. So here’s just to put it out there and make it clear we are an on-campus on-site in the classroom program. We are not a virtual program. Now, granted, we had to teach hybrid this year because of the situation globally, of course, but that’s not our strength. Our strength is the human connection, connecting with your professors, connection with industries, connecting with the guest speakers and being there. There’s so much to be said for that. So it is an on-campus program for students who are coming full time. If we’re taking four courses in the fall and four courses in the spring, it’s a lot of work. You can have a part-time job, don’t expect a full-time job, and I tell that to some of our students who are coming straight from the undergrad program, oh, I got a job. And I go listen, for you to go full-time school and full-time work; nobody would advise you to do that. So you have to really balance, we want you to still have a healthy life. For companies who may want to have their employees come to our program, perhaps it’s two classes a semester and getting the degree over two years so that this way they can still have their job and be local. And so there’s ways that can be customized, of course. And we’re an intimate program where we can personalize the courses and customize it for you so that you really get what you want out of the degree. You know, I’ll tell you when I mentioned one of those first courses is in operations. Well, for folks who are coming into our program that already have experienced, they don’t need that. So we actually have an alternative, which is called innovation and disruption, which is actually really good for any sector of the business. So between personalizing the course load and personalizing the classes, pacing it with what works for you, hopefully that helps answer that question.

 

Josh: It does. So, you know, fast forwarding a little bit here in the discussion about a year and a half from now, there’s going to be this cohort of highly educated master’s level senior living, ready to conquer the world graduates coming out of your program. I’m going to assume since it’s a new program, probably some of these people have not been in senior living and they’re probably students that are coming directly through the university system there that are looking for a job, right? How will people best connect to these graduates that are highly professional, that are used wanting to use these sharp skills and  this learning that they’ve acquired, how are they going to connect with you all to get into the industry?

 

Leora: Fair enough. So other than the two semesters of classes and internship in the field is something that’s expected and between the guest speakers who are going to come into the class, the instructors who are teaching those courses and their network of connections, our career services folks, and the introductions they’ve been making thus far in the business, we are looking to create an advisory council so that we have experts from senior living, supporting our program with the great advice to keep us in tune with what’s going on in the industry. All of those, that’s the beauty of being in person, right, is literally meeting these folks so that you start networking and building those opportunities. So that’s how we plan to put that together.

 

Josh: So you’re still looking for students. I’m assuming there’ll be a limited number of spots available in this first cohort. What about, have you gathered all your faculty, are all of your faculty in place, your teachers or professors, or are you still looking for those kinds of individuals?

 

Leora: We’re actually, we have identified a number of folks to teach in a master’s program. You need a master’s yourself. And we have identified a number of folks who have great experience, one in teaching this business and in working in this business. So they are practitioners and they do understand how to work in the classroom as well, which is hard to find someone who’s got both. And so they’ve been identified and now it’s just a matter of continuing to sort of launch a new program, in a way that we know will have sustainability and that we can take pride in. So we’re in the midst of just continuing the momentum to get it started

 

Josh: Well Leora. Here’s what I want to ask of you today. So we have had you on our show, we believe in what you’re doing, we’re very excited. I would also ask if you happen to see one or two applications with the name, Josh or Lucas with Bridge the Gap, come through please be gracious with us. We are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Our grades from college many, many, many years ago are not, like it’s not gonna bring down the house or anything, but we are passionate. So we can at least check that box. So I’m really excited about this. I wish there would have been something like this when I was navigating college, there just was nothing like this. So I’m excited for not only those people that maybe have never heard about senior living never worked and they’re at the student age just going through it for the first time, but also really excited for those that have been in the industry for a while that may have always wanted to get a master’s degree in something like this and the opportunity for them wasn’t there, maybe the time is now Lucas. 

 

Lucas: Maybe it is.

 

Leora: You know, I would say that we’ve been, and you talked about this earlier, Josh, you know, how do you tell young people that this is an opportunity even, this wouldn’t necessarily be on somebody’s radar. And we have started already with some informational sessions where we’ve brought in some experts, we’ve even brought in those handful of students that I mentioned to you earlier, who were in our program undergraduate that always knew they wanted to do this. And we wondered, how did you know they wanted to do this when you were in high school? We’ve had some info sessions to start, we’ve had blue moon capital, which is an investor in senior housing as one of our Dean’s distinguished lecture series guests. So we started to introduce folks and executives from the business into our hospitality network and DNA. We do have a panel scheduled and I’m looking for my chart. We’ll be hosting our summer conversation series, which will be on zoom. It will be open to the industry and will be open to the public, it’s complimentary. We will have it on June 15th, which is a Tuesday at 11 in the morning where we have a panel of developers, operators, and practitioners from senior living and senior housing and marketing in senior housing. So really a whole variety of sort of perspectives where one of our professors is going to be moderating that panel. So we’re really implementing the thought process into our own network and our DNA and our programming. Also, one thing that I’ve learned personally, because I did so much research to help launch this and put this together, it really started initially as a project and it’s turned into a passion project for me instead, because I feel so strongly about the need for it and about what it needs to do and about how we needed as a society in this country.

We really need people to pay attention to how we are as we age, how are we going to live comfortably, actively healthfully? It’s about community. It’s about wellness. It’s about a lifestyle. And we haven’t really talked about it publicly, maybe within the industry, that’s the discussion, but for those of us coming in and trying to open it up, our worlds, gosh, what could be more important? So for me, it’s really become a passion project and I’m loving where this could go. So we’re just eager to welcome the first year students to just help us with the momentum of building this program and getting this going. And I welcome the companies to reach out to us to see how they can participate, whether it’s as a guest speaker, whether it’s with continued internship opportunities, advice, conferences, you know, all the opportunities, introduce all people, whether you’re right out of college or 30 years out of college to explore this avenue. There is so much growth potential. And as I said earlier, the opportunities that actually transcend or that really parallel traditional hotels and lodging and hospitality from the operation of the communities, to the development and the investment of the communities, the real estate piece of it, the operations, the activities, the human experiences, it really is hospitality, isn’t it. So, we’re excited and eager to have everyone just sort of reach out to us and see how we can make it work and, and journey on this path with us together.

 

Josh: Very exciting conversation this morning, Leora, thank you so much, Lucas. I can’t wait to get our listeners connected with this program. 

 

Lucas: Well, Leora your passion matches up exactly with BTG and our network. Our mission is to educate, inform, and influence and the Genesis. You basically told our origin story about why we felt that there was a need for a Bridge the Gap Podcast, bridging the gap right there. You pretty much defined the terms. So, I’m really glad that we’ve been able to connect with our listeners. They’re going to want to learn more. Of course, we’ll put everything in the show notes and people can go to BTGvoice.com. I also want to say that a thank you to our ambassadors. This is a program that we launched this year and we were able to develop a close knit team of ambassadors to wave the BTG flag and introduce us to people like you, so we can match up and work together for things that really matter, which is great outcomes for older adults here in America and in senior living and in the industry to be a part of the tide that rises all boats. And that’s what we’re all about and we’re really happy to talk to you today. Thanks for spending time with us.

 

Leora: Nice to talk to both of you. I really appreciate the opportunity. I want to shout out to Zach as well, who introduced us. I’m really grateful for that and look forward to more opportunities, more interesting, more interactions, more conversations, and I’ll see you in school next year, guys. Right? You’ll see me in Boston?

 

Josh: If you wish that on your classroom, do you mind? Yes, absolutely. That’s exciting to even think about, thank you Leora. 

 

Leora: Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

 

Lucas: All right, well, this won’t be the last conversation, but we’ll end it for now. Go to BTGvoice.com for the transcripts and the connections to all of our social media. Be sure to check out and connect with Josh and I. I’m @seniorlivingfan and Josh is @Joshcrispofficial. Check us out, connect with us, send us a message. Have a great day and thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap. 

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168: Leora Lanz