School of Business

Melissa A. Varao, Ph.D.


Office: DeArment

Tel: 617-243-2499



  • Ph.D. Hotel and Restaurant Management, Auburn University, 2009
  • M.S. Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, University of South Carolina, 2004
  • B.S. Recreation and Sport Management – Emphasis in Travel and Tourism Management, Indiana State University, 2002


  • HEM 101 Hospitality Management
  • HEM 102 Fundamentals of Event Management
  • HEM 214 Ecotourism
  • HEM 301 Social Event Management
  • HEM 401 Service Quality in Hospitality
  • BUSS 497 Business and Hospitality Summer Internship
  • MGMT 758 Service Quality Management

Professor Melissa A. Varao is the Associate Dean for the School of Business. During her time at Lasell, Professor Varao has developed three new hospitality majors, a minor, and a Master’s degree concentration, and has been involved in the continuous development and revision of School of Business undergraduate and graduate curricula. In addition, she has created many strong industry partnerships in the Boston area for the benefit Lasell students. Professor Varao has also developed several new courses including HEM 214 Ecotourism, which includes a week-long service learning expedition for students to such locations as Belize and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. She held the position of Faculty Connected Learning Organizer for four years in which time she assisted faculty in course and project development related to Lasell’s Connected Learning philosophy and coordinated and executed the bi-annual Connected Learning Symposia.

Dr. Varao is a member of several organizations, including the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Education (ICHRIE), the International Live Events Association (ILEA) and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). She has served as the Marketing Director for the Northeast North America (NENA) Chapter of ICHRIE. Professor Varao has co-authored several publications, including A Comparison Study of U.S. and Non-U.S. Education Internationalization Practices of Hospitality and Tourism Programs in the Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism (2011), Defining Visitor Satisfaction in the Context of Camping Oriented Nature-Based Tourism - the Driving Force of Quality! In the Journal of Vacation Marketing, (2010), and Attachment Style and Emotional Intelligence and its Relationship to Leadership Success in the Twelfth Annual Graduate Education and Graduate Student Research in Hospitality and Tourism Conference Proceedings (2007). Most recently, she authored a textbook chapter called Service Quality, Brand Loyalty, and Wine Tourism. Varao regularly guest lectures for Hospitality programs both locally and abroad.

Professor Varao has traveled to Belize, Brazil, and Nicaragua with Lasell students as part of various ecotourism and international service learning trips; she has also studied and directed programs abroad in Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain, Costa Rica and more. Professor Varao is known to lead domestic educational trips including Napa and Sonoma Valleys to study wine tourism and New York City to introduce students to the International Hotel Experience Tradeshow and Conference.

Prior to earning her Ph.D., Professor Varao worked in both the lodging and event management sectors of the hospitality industry. She has extensive experience in hotel front office operations and in planning weddings and special events for both luxury resorts and as a small business owner.

While completing her education, Dr. Varao was competitively selected as a 2008-2009 Future Faculty Fellow at Auburn University based on her demonstrated academic excellence and interest in academic careers and was the recipient of many additional honors and awards, including the 2008 Jeanne M. Preister Fellowship at Auburn University and the 2005 Graduate Student of the Year for the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management Department at the University of South Carolina.

What is important for your students to take away from your classes?

"It’s important for me to know that my students are not only getting a well-laid educational foundation in liberal arts, business, and hospitality, but are also gaining knowledge from experience working in their particular fields of the hospitality industry. Clearly students need to understand the terms and practices in any field, but I find that most people can’t fully appreciate and understand this information until they have actually used it in real-life situations. I incorporate working experiences into every course that I teach. For example, it would be nearly impossible to teach a student about the event planning industry without having them plan actual events. Generally, these experiences involve meeting and working with other professionals in the industry, allowing students to make several strong industry connections by the time they graduate."