Skip to main content Skip to main content

Press Release

MSU Denver announces its first elite fellow and the fall 2015 class of the Rita and Navin Dimond Fellowship Program

Contact: Tim Carroll, Office 303-556-5136, Cell 303-870-7705

Posted: September 9, 2015

DENVER – Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events named recent graduate Lauren Spagnuolo its first Dimond Elite Fellow at a Sept. 2 ceremony. Spagnuolo received a $5,000 cash award.

“In talking with managers at the properties and faculty at MSU Denver, we felt that Lauren was exemplary in all criteria,” said Navin Dimond, the founder, president and CEO of Stonebridge Companies and a member of the MSU Denver Foundation Board. “Our selection of Lauren was based on her excellent work performance and her actions as a role model for all students and Fellows. Lauren is regarded highly by her professors, classmates and team members. She embodies the qualities of excellence and passion that we hope to nurture in the next generation of hospitality leaders.”

Spagnuolo was a member of the program’s inaugural class in fall 2014 and parlayed the experience into a job with Stonebridge, which began shortly after her graduation with a Bachelor of Arts in hospitality, tourism and events last December. Today, she is a human resource manager at the company’s Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites property in downtown Denver. During her tenure, Spagnuolo has displayed a passion for the hotel industry and a deep desire to become a successful hospitality professional.

“The Dimond Fellowship was a really great opportunity to gain hands-on management experience that would have taken years in an hourly position, and it enabled me to enter a management role upon graduation,” said Spagnuolo. “Receiving the Elite Fellows Award will be one of those moments I’ll never forget. Because of my side-by-side work with Stonebridge managers in the last year they are all like family to me now, and it was very special to have them present to share in my accomplishments.”

Rita and Navin Dimond provided a generous donation to the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events to support the Hotel Management Program, named in their honor. A significant portion of the Dimonds’ contribution was specifically reserved to endow the Dimond Fellowship Program as a shared commitment to excellence and a passion for fostering future hospitality leaders. Fellows are provided many unique professional development opportunities including a paid internship with the executive teams at Stonebridge Companies hotels for one semester as part of their senior experience.

A total of 10 students participated in the program’s first full year in fall 2014 and spring 2015. Students majoring in hospitality at MSU Denver have nearly doubled in recent years from 350 students to now more than 650 students. The fellowship program recently announced its fall 2015 class. The four new fellows will be welcomed at a ceremony on Sept. 29.

Elizabeth Fischer is a senior pursuing her degree in hospitality, tourism and events with a concentration in event management. She thrives on providing others with excellent hospitality and loves balancing creative and logistical opportunities when planning events. She has held numerous leadership roles in the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, including that of president, and developed essential skills in her position as student organization accountant with the Office of Student Activities at MSU Denver. While she aspires to form her own event planning business, her short-term goal is to begin her career as a convention sales manager or event planner. She is a graduate of Chatfield Senior High School in Littleton, Colorado.

Thomas Mortensen has years of experience in the restaurant business, including positions with Cucina Colore and Le Grand Bistro & Oyster Bar in Denver. He is building on those skills by pursuing his degree with a concentration in hotel management. In addition to his work with privately owned restaurants, Mortensen has worked for a variety of corporate restaurant chains, and as a personal banker. A graduate of Northglenn High School, Mortensen is a leader in the classroom, often sharing his professional experiences with other students. He is working to increase his hotel experience and would like to pursue a management role.

Christina Murray’s family always jokes that if you left her in a room full of strangers she would be friends with all of them within 30 minutes. Murray’s positive approach to life – a trait she learned from her mother – has been a cornerstone of her success. She inherited her father’s strong work ethic as well and is dedicated to earning exceptional grades and helping as many people as possible. Her professional experience includes working as the guest service agent for Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott and as assistant to the event planner for the Center of Multicultural and Diversity Education at the University of Arkansas.

Perizae Tzantarmas spent her childhood immersed in a vivacious Greek community in Portland, Oregon, where her parents prepared her for life in the hospitality industry, sharing their experiences as an event planner and a small-business restaurant owner. Tzantarmas’ professional experience spans a variety of service-oriented positions, including working as an assistant editor at Heartlight Girls Publication, LLC. Her love for special events grew from her job as a service staff member with Pantheon Banquet Hall in Portland. A graduate of Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, Colorado, Tzantarmas plans to build upon her experiences, education and fellowship to secure a rewarding career in the hospitality industry. 


About Stonebridge Companies

Founded in 1991 by Navin C. Dimond, Stonebridge Companies is a privately owned, innovative hotel owner, operator and developer headquartered near Denver, Colorado. The diverse portfolio of properties includes select-service, extended-stay, mid-scale and full-service hotels in markets throughout the U.S.


About Metropolitan State University of Denver

For 50 years Metropolitan State University of Denver has transformed the lives of students, served as a courageous leader in higher education and boldly advanced the well-being of metro Denver communities. Throughout its history, the University has been known as a gateway to opportunity through broad access, quality academics and education relevant to the Colorado economy. The yearlong MSU Denver anniversary celebration commemorates the creation in 1965 by the Colorado General Assembly of the state’s first urban higher education institution. 

Edit this page