Major: Hospitality Management
As a teenager, Robert Lezcano learned how to deal with customers through his best friend’s father, who was the manager of an auto parts store.
Lezcano eventually spent 20 years working in customer service, including at a high-paced call center, for several auto parts businesses.
“I learned interpersonal skills and how to engage customers from an early age,” he said. “When I decided to look into a different career, hospitality seemed like a good fit – I like to travel and I enjoy working with people.”
He began researching hospitality programs and located College of DuPage.
“When I came to campus, I loved it, especially the facilities and the Culinary & Hospitality Center, where the Inn at Water’s Edge is located,” he said. “The hands-on learning there was phenomenal. Once I was in the program, I was required to work in housekeeping and at the front desk. What I gained were tactile tools that help shape the big picture of hospitality.”
While attending COD, Lezcano also had a job at the front desk at an area Hampton Inn, which allowed him to apply what he learned to his work and bring work examples to the classroom. He then became the assistant general manager before moving to Embassy Suites in Lombard.
“I am amazed at how well-prepared I am to fulfill my duties as a result of the education I received at COD,” he said. “The industry lingo, the concepts and strategies are all exactly what I was prepared to encounter. The supervision course I took at COD was a real-life exploration of what really happens behind the scenes, thanks to Professor Jim Mulyk. As I look over the housekeeping department and find ways to improve morale and efficiency, I remember the countless examples I learned from Justin Syputa in the Facilities Management course. He is the executive housekeeper at Virgin Hotels in downtown Chicago. The methodical approach to cleaning and maintenance of the facility are straightforward and easy to remember.
“During my internship at The Inn at Water’s Edge with Jamie Fredericks, I learned many best practices for internal communication among staff and management and am applying this in an effort to improve efficiency and teamwork at my workplace. Professor Mary Beth Leone has had the biggest impact on me during my time at COD. The classes I took with her provided the foundation from which I approach the operation aspects of my new position. I am grateful to all of my other professors and the many things I have learned from them.”
Lezcano completed his bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management with honors through COD’s 3+1 program with Roosevelt University. His long-term goal is to live and work in Cuba and organize small-group travel from the U.S. to Cuba. However, because of COVID-19, his plans are temporarily on hold until the hospitality industry picks up again, although he relocated to Miami so he is prepared when that happens.
“I’m first-generation Cuban-American, born in Chicago,” he said. “Since the first time I traveled there, I was drawn to Cuba. I’m interested in exploring my roots and then sharing this with other people. Once we get past the pandemic, there will be many up-and-coming opportunities for travel and hospitality in that country to fill a lifetime. These will also help the economy and the Cuban people.”
Instead, Lezcano is entering the consumer product market and has a patent pending on a new product. He also enrolled in a master’s program and plans to pursue a Ph.D.
He is so pleased with his education at College of DuPage that he is happy to be an ambassador for the school.
“Tell anyone to seriously consider COD. The facilities alone are competitive with four-year schools,” Lezcano said. “Everything is geared toward helping students reach their goals. My motivation and creativity was cultivated at COD. I have enjoyed so many good, deep and meaningful conversations with professors after class and one-on-one because of their open door policy, which makes it easy for an interested student to get all the attention they need or want.
“My time at COD has been priceless, and I expect to build on my momentum as I continue to grow in this industry. All of my successes are directly tied to COD.”