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Campus Life

Suzanne Markham-Bagnera can tell you exactly how many rubber ducks she has lining the shelves of her School of Hospitality Administration office: 131. They are dressed as chefs, witches, scuba divers—some even sport Hawaiian leis.

The SHA clinical assistant professor started her collection years ago while working various positions in the hospitality industry. One duck bears the imprint of tire tracks: Markham-Bagnera recalls finding it in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Cambridge, where she was general manager. Eventually, friends started to give the squeezable birds as gifts, as they are popular freebies at industry trade shows. “The ironic thing is I absolutely hate the color yellow,” she says with a laugh.

The collection soon became a calling card of sorts for Markham-Bagnera, who even used the ducks to decorate the cake table at her wedding. Today, as a professor, an SHA faculty advisor, and BU’s American Hotel & Lodging Association student chapter faculty advisor, she likes how the ducks can be an icebreaker, creating “an environment that’s welcoming. Ducks are a conversation starter to make students feel comfortable.”

She got her start in the hospitality industry working in her family’s restaurant, the popular Long Island eatery Louie’s. After graduating with bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Johnson & Wales University, she was a general manager at Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites, Staybridge Suites, and Holiday Inn Express. Her current research interests include customer service, training, teamwork, and lodging operation management.

She enrolled in the doctoral program at Iowa State University in 2012 and in October 2016 earned a PhD in hospitality management. Her dissertation was a study of the impact that TripAdvisor hotel reviews have on the revenue of Boston hotels.

Markham-Bagnera, who has taught for 14 years, acknowledges the positive impact of going back to school. “I felt it improved my teaching and gave me more confidence,” she says. “I added in a lot more class reflections to the courses I teach, because when I did it as a student, it got me to think through the process. I started to see what my challenges were and how I overcame them. I’ve been teaching lodging for so long, and it gave me a revived enthusiasm for it.”

In our series “Office Artifacts,” BU Today highlights interesting artifacts professors and staff display in their office. Have a suggestion about someone we should profile? Email amlaskow@bu.edu.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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