Justin Ellison

Concentration: Hotel Management; Graduated: 2012

Publish Date: June 23, 2015


Having spent his latter adolescence working in hotels, Justin Ellison was pretty sure that he didn’t want to become a hotelier when he enrolled at MSU Denver.

His choice of college, though, was a natural. His parents, Kevin and Shelley Ellison, met as students at the University,

and Ellison knew he could get a quality education while maintaining his job as the front office supervisor at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Denver.

“It’s a good school and it was convenient,” he said.

On the advice of a friend, Ellison took the Hotel, Tourism and Events intro class, thinking he would chalk it up as an elective. But as the semester wore on, something clicked. “I was learning about the possibilities in the field and how I could make it a career,” he said.

After completing the class, “I declared my major.”

Ellison’s classes reinforced concepts he already knew from his front-of-the-house hotel experience and gave him accounting and finance skills to keep his career moving forward. While still a student, he was promoted to Hilton Garden Inn guest service manager and nominated twice for Hospitality Stars of Excellence by the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association.

“All my professors were able to give me honest advice and information that really helped me with my career,” Ellison said. “I could go to them, saying, ‘I got this offer. Is it a good move for me?’ And they would bounce ideas off me. The relationship you can build with professors at Metro is key.”

After graduation, Stonebridge Companies, the hospitality management company that runs the Hilton Garden Inn (Stonebridge was co-founded by Rita and Navin Dimond who donated $1.5 million to MSU Denver and for whom the hotel management program is named), tapped Ellison to help open their newest property, a Residence Inn by Marriott in midtown Manhattan.

“I jump-started my career by going to Metro,” Ellison said. “I don’t think I would be where I am today if I had gone to a different school.”