Workforce Recruitment, Development & Retention Best Practices and Solutions

Wanda Gispert

Wanda Gispert
Regional Vice President, Talent & Workforce Development
MGM Resorts International

Wanda Gispert is the Regional Vice President of Talent & Workforce Development for MGM Resorts International providing overall organizational insight, analysis and strategic workforce development to effectively support the business needs of six regional resorts in Mississippi, Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts.  She recently celebrated the successful opening of the MGM National Harbor, a 1.4 billion dollar resort located near Washington DC, that exceeded its workforce development goals to the community by hiring 48% of its 4,000 employees from Prince George’s, the local county where the resort resides.  

Wanda has worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and has opened multiple properties in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Caribbean markets for Hilton and Marriott.  She specializes in challenging labor markets to find workforce solutions by building viable pipelines through organizations that work with individuals with differing abilities, veterans, higher education, non-profit and government agencies.

Wanda earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Development & Policy from Georgia State University.  She serves on the University of the District of Columbia Hospitality Academy Industry Council, Virginia Tech Hospitality and Tourism Management Advisory Board and is an avid volunteer with the Institute of Patient-Centered Design, Inc. in Savannah, Ga.

Michelle Hodges

Michelle Hodges
SH Enterprises

Michelle Hodges is President of SH Enterprises, the parent company for Meyer Vacation Rentals, Meyer Services, Starr Textile Services and Century 21 Meyer Real Estate. Growing up in the industry, Hodges recognized and understood tourism trends at an early age. She has extensive knowledge of the industry as well as a keen understanding of the challenges faced by vacation rental property owners and guests. Hodges worked at Meyer Vacation Rentals as a summer job throughout high school and then attended Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, graduating with a major in International Relations and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Affairs.

Her hospitality experience and degree, fueled by her passion for travel and tourism, enabled her work experience to include Walt Disney World Resorts and the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau before returning home to the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Today, Hodges serves as Treasurer on the board for the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, the Baldwin County Education Coalition and the USA Hospitality and Tourism Management Advisory Board, and has served on the boards of the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber and the South Baldwin Education Foundation. Hodges is currently participating in Coastal Alabama Partnership’s Coastal Civic Masters Program and his an alumnus of the Leadership Alabama Initiative as well as Leadership Baldwin County.

George Martin

George Martin
LuLu’s Restaurant

George Martin is a veteran hospitality professional who developed a deep understanding of what it means to be “of service” under the tutelage of Steve Wynn, managing Prime Steakhouse in the Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, NV and later serving as GM of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro at the Venetian Hotel. His intimate knowledge of hospitality and F&B led him to New York City for the development of a successful home-delivered food concept before returning to Vegas to open STK Steakhouse at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Today, George serves as Lucy Buffett’s COO and right hand man of LuLu’s Restaurant, with locations in Destin, Florida, Gulf Shores, Alabama, and North Myrtle Beach, opening in 2018.

Scott Pejsa

Scott Pejsa
Regional Vice President of Operations
Mckibbon Hospitality.

Scott oversees the operations of 13 Marriott and Hilton hotels for Mckibbon Hospitality in the cities of Mobile, Pensacola, and in his home city of Knoxville Tennessee.   Scott’s joined Mckibbon in 2000 as a General Manager at a Courtyard by Marriott in Knoxville. Over the next 13 years was General Manager for the company in Knoxville at 3 different hotels.   Scott was also part of the opening team for 12 hotels for Mckibbon during this time.

Scott started his hospitality career as a bellman while completing his degree at the Hotel and Restaurant School at the University of Tennessee.  Scott currently serves on the advisory board of the Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management School at the University of Tennessee as well as being a board member on the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association.  Scott is a past General Manager of the year winner with the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association and a past winner of Homewood Suites General Manager of the year award of merit.

Robert Thompson

Dr. Robert J. Thompson, CHA, TMP
Assistant Professor of Hospitality & Tourism
The University of South Alabama
Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management

With over 30+ years of background in the Hospitality Industry, Dr. Robert Thompson is a seasoned industry leader with experience in destination markets such as Las Vegas, NV, Beverly Hills, CA, and Biloxi, MS, holding positions like hotel general manager, cruise director, and country club manager.  Robert is a C.H.A. (Certified Hotel Administrator) with the American Hotel & Lodging Association and holds a T.M.P. (Tourism Marketing Professional) certification through the Southeast Tourism Society.  Capping his career, he was a corporate employee with Wyndham Worldwide, Inc. for twenty years in a variety positions ranging from regional marketing to quality assurance.  In 2009, Robert received his M.B.A. - Hospitality & Tourism from the prestigious University of Guelph in Canada and in 2016, he received his Ph.D. in Human Capital Development from The University of Southern Mississippi.  Dr. Thompson is Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of South Alabama and has taught at California State University – East Bay and The University of Southern Mississippi.