By Karen D. Lorentz
The pandemic has changed many, many lives and, unfortunately, often not for the better. So when you come across a story of how it made a difference for someone in a positive way — and brought a talented worker to Killington — it’s a refreshing bit of news!
Shea Dunlop was born and raised in Hinesburg graduated from CVU High School in 2018, and spent two years at the University of Hartford studying musical theatre before transferring to Castleton University in 2020.
“I loved being an actor but realized during the pandemic that I wanted a career with more stability. Plus, I didn’t like taking ballet class on Zoom,” Dunlop said of her change in direction.
When she had to move home as colleges closed for on-campus learning during the height of the pandemic, she “almost just dropped out of school. But I wanted to get a degree,” she said.
Recalling “a friend of a friend who had gone through the Castleton University School of Resort and Hospitality Management program,” she connected with him and decided hospitality would be “a good fit.” She graduated from Castleton in the spring of 2022 with a degree in resort and hospitality management, earning the award for operational excellence and the academic excellence award, and the highest GPA in the history of the program.
Indicative of her love of the outdoors and being physically fit, she hiked the Long Trail end-to-end after graduation. Her next adventure was a month-long tour of Europe. With time to think about her next step and having enjoyed her hands-on learning experiences at Killington, Dunlop was soon back working with her first mentor at Killington.
Q&A with Shea Dunlop
Mountain Times: As a Castleton University School of Resort and Hospitality Management student what jobs did you have at Killington?
Shea Dunlop: The ambassador coordinator position was my first job at Killington, which is when I first worked for Pete Duffy, the ambassador program manager. I then moved on to being a Banquet Server for weddings and conferences at the Grand Hotel, then to working the front desk at the Pico Fitness Center.
I’d been talking to Pete about coming back to the ambassador coordinator role for a while, so I called him from the airport on my way home from Europe, and was back in the [ambassador] office within the week. I’m happy to have come full circle!
MT: What are your duties and responsibilities?
SD: I provide organizational and administrative assistance for Pete, as well as cover his management duties on his days off. We work closely together on scheduling our 200 ambassadors, communicating resort updates to them, and providing support for them as they carry out their daily assignments, doing our best to make sure they’re having a good time every step of the way.
MT: What do you like about your job?
SD: Since the ambassadors are volunteers, the work of managing 200 people is much different than it would be in any other department with paid employees. They all love what they do; they’re there because they want to be, not because they have to be. This makes the workplace such a positive environment.
MT: Were there any people who were special influences or mentors to you?
SD: Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Pete. He took me under his wing when I first moved here, showed me the ropes of the resort, and then brought me back into this position, making sure I was doing work I enjoyed while getting fairly compensated. He’s often my biggest cheerleader, and I know I’ll have his support wherever my career takes me.
MT: Do you ski or snowboard?
SD: When I was in third grade, my parents taught me to ski at Cochran’s, the tiny family-run ski area in Richmond. I skied those eight trails religiously through grade school but focused more on theater in high school and the first half of college. It wasn’t until I moved to Killington that I started getting in more than 1 to 2 days a season. I still ski in the same boots I got in fifth grade, though … if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
MT: How do you spend your time outside of work?
SD: Aside from skiing on my days off, you can find me taking advantage of the resort’s facilities by lifting weights at the Pico Fitness Center most nights after work. I’m an avid reader of fantasy/sci-fi literature, so if I’ve got my earbuds in, I’m probably listening to an audiobook. After that, I like to play board games with my friends and roommates and spend time with my cat.
MT: What’s your take on the mountain or ski town lifestyle?
SD: I’ve lived in Vermont pretty much all my life, and it’s hard to find a reason to leave. Since moving to Killington, I’ve come to love the proximity to skiing, hiking, and all sorts of activities, as well as the small-town feeling of running into people you know everywhere you go.
MT: What would you tell someone who was thinking about the Castleton University School of Resort and Hospitality Management program for college?
SD: If getting a degree is important to you (or your parents), but you’re a hands-on learner who wants to get out in the field as soon as possible, I think it’s a great fit. It’s a perfect balance of being in the classroom and learning from experience. You also make a lot of great connections with folks at the resort, which has made the transition from college to “real life” extremely easy for me.
MT: Anything else you would like to share?
SD: I’m excited to see what this ski season brings!