Who would have imagined that an October 1984 get-together at the Velvet Turtle in Santa Monica, California connecting female trailblazers from the hospitality design industry would lead to NEWH, the international non-profit powerhouse that as of October 2023 has awarded more than $8,380,000 (£6,880,000) in educational scholarships to over 2,840 students?
Shelia Lohmiller founder of the Network of Executive Women in Hospitality NEWH
The answer, quite possibly, is Shelia Lohmiller who in ‘84, alongside Dorrit St. John and Susan Spalding, founded the Network of Executive Women in Hospitality with an aim to increase professional opportunities for women while opening doors for future generations through student scholarships. Now under Shelia’s visionary leadership as CEO, NEWH enters its 40th anniversary year with 6,200 members across 28 chapters in the US, Canada, UK, France and Italy—all run by volunteers. Shelia is also the 2023 Recipient of the Hospitality Design Platinum Circle Manfred Steinfeld Humanitarian Award.
Increasingly diverse and no longer exclusively for women, the group was rebranded as ‘NEWH – The Hospitality Industry Network’. Connecting global hospitality design communities became vital to driving growth. In 2002, Pamela McMahon launched in London the first international chapter. The Toronto chapter debuted in 2004, and then the Paris and Milan chapters were created in 2019.
Jonathan Young, NEWH Vice President
Jonathan Young became NEWH’s vice president international relations in January 2020. A long-time NEWH member and past president of the UK chapter, he also has extensive experience working on both sides of the pond with British and American carpet manufacturers.
Below, Shelia and Jonathan share their thoughts about how NEWH’s expanding global presence can impact scholarship, educational and networking opportunities in the hospitality design and management industries.
Why is it important for NEWH to grow its international network?
Shelia: We are in a small industry in a world that’s increasingly interconnected, so building bridges and fostering global relationships is crucial. International expansion provides an opportunity to connect with the global hospitality community while raising NEWH’s brand profile.
What locations have you set your sights on for future chapters?
Jonathan: Designers around the world have expressed interest in forming NEWH chapters, including locations in Dubai, the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland and Spain. We’re assessing the feasibility of establishing chapters there, as it is a challenge to find dedicated champions, especially when there’s not one clear ‘design capital’ in a country. We also need to ensure existing new chapters are on solid footing before expanding further. Our goal is to create succession plans for each chapter to ensure a continuous and strong board of directors.
NEWH Leadership Conference 2022
Benefits of Being Part of NEWH
What are the benefits of belonging to an internationally connected charitable organisation like NEWH?
Shelia: It’s not just what you know, or who you know, but who knows you. We offer opportunities to make valuable connections, which is key in a relationship-based industry like hospitality interior design. You usually do business with your friends, so relationships are very important. Additionally, NEWH provides leadership training, educational opportunities and the chance to give back to the industry through scholarships. It’s really a great ‘feel good’ experience nurturing the fire in students’ young spirits. You hear stories from kids who would not have been able to finish their education without a scholarship. It’s heart breaking, and very rewarding. We have effected change in so many people’s lives.
Jonathan: We’re also working to increase connections between design practices and students looking for practical experience in the industry. Anyone submitting work for the UK scholarship programme is already investing time above and beyond their studies, so they show a hardworking attitude. If they’ve shown the talent to win the competition or be given a scholarship, then they have the aptitude, too.
Scholarship Initiatives Championing Equity, Inclusion and Diversity
How does NEWH’s EID philosophy align with providing scholarships for international students?
Shelia: NEWH’s philosophy has always been inherently aligned with inclusivity and diversity. Membership is free for students around the world, promoting an inclusive approach to scholarship opportunities. In addition to scholarships affiliated with individual chapters, international design and hotel management students can apply for a range of scholarships awarded by NEWH as a whole, including the Green Voice competition; Icon of Industry; Harvey Nudelman Memorial Scholarship; Fabric Innovation Legacy Scholarship; and Women Leaders in Hospitality, amongst others. Even if students are in locations without chapters, they can apply. We have a scholarship recipient who is now in South Korea, and she would like to try and promote NEWH there. Last year we had two finalists from the Balkans region we brought over for the awards ceremony. Wherever students come from, we’re there to support them. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your religion is, what your race is, whatever. Having lived overseas in my 20s, I look at us all as one world, one people. That’s the way it should be, and we would be such a better world if that were the case.
NEWH UK 20th Anniversary Party
International Education Opportunities
How does NEWH help students study in international hospitality and/or management programs?
Shelia: Currently, on a chapter level, NEWH is involved in this effort. However, there is the idea of creating a comprehensive list of international design and hotel management schools to assist students interested in studying abroad. We’d also like to set up a platform to advertise internships—similar to our job board—if studios let us know they’re looking for students. Work visas are also a hurdle, and we need more resources in this area.
NEWH Milan Chapter
Synergy = Success
What do you wish professionals in international hospitality design communities knew about NEWH?
Shelia: My wish is for the interior design community to view NEWH as an opportunity to develop relationships with the whole industry, not just other designers. Most interior designers don’t realise their best friends are good reps who can make their projects look good. NEWH plays a significant role in connecting people with brands, fostering collaborations, and strengthening the global industry. It’s not just a network; it’s a platform that values relationships and community above all.
NEWH Paris Chapter
Jonathan: Although there are partnerships with suppliers, the focus is on education, creativity and building strong relationships, not selling products. We need to keep stressing that we are a non-profit organisation with chapters run by volunteers, and the events we put on raise money for design students’ scholarships. NEWH is a one big global family.
Written by: Alicia Sheber