No Stranger to Risk
PROVO, Utah – Sep 22, 2020 – Ariadna Mateu is no stranger to risk. In 2008, at the onset of the Great Recession, which affected economies across the world, she left her stable, well-paying job to travel internationally for a year. Now, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, she’s adjusting to her new position as the chief student experience officer in the Experience Design and Management (ExDM) program at the BYU Marriott School of Business, where she helps enhance, enrich and improve students’ outcomes during their time on campus.
Born in Barcelona, Spain, Mateu studied and graduated from the University of Barcelona in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree and a master's degree in hotel management. After graduating and working in the industry, she decided hotel management wasn’t for her and felt the urge for a significant change.
She moved to London in 2003, hoping to explore other options for her future path. “I got the bug for travelling,” she says. “Before moving, I said I wouldn’t work in hotel management. You know what they say about never say never? Well, they’re right.”
As a professional in London, Mateu accepted an offer to be the purchasing manager for a five-star hotel, the Dorchester hotel in London. She enjoyed the job but ultimately decided it still wasn’t what she wanted to do. While working at the Dorchester, however, Mateu discovered a passion for encouraging her team and colleagues to grow.
“When you become a manager and start working with people, and you care about them, you become more of a coach or a mentor,” Mateu says. “I realized how much I loved helping my staff grow personally and professionally.”
When the 2008 recession hit, Mateu felt the pull of change again. Leaving the security of her job in the middle of uncertainty, Mateu decided to travel and gain new experiences. “I needed something more than just the professional life of earning money and spending it,” she says. “I decided to quit my job and went on an around-the-world trip for a whole year. I was either extremely brave or extremely crazy.”
After her year of exploration, Mateu returned to Barcelona and managed executive education programs at IESE Business School. In that role, she acted as a liaison between the academic creators of the school and the executive leaders of businesses. “I created learning experiences and customized programs for companies that wanted to fill a gap in their executives’ education by using the curriculum that the IESE teachers created,” she explains.
Mateu explored finding a better professional and personal life approach for herself while working at IESE. She studied mindfulness and even became a certified yoga teacher. During this time, she also met her husband, Ben Rabner, a Springville, Utah, native. “My husband and I met in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress. He was there for work. Ben works as the head of experiential marketing at Adobe, so when we met, we both spoke the experience-design language. Our passion to create experiences that transform lives and organizations was apparent from day one,” Mateu says.
After Mateu and her husband decided to move to Utah, she found her current position at BYU Marriott. “When I read the description of the position, I knew the job would be right up my alley,” she says.
Like many of her large life changes, the move to BYU Marriott came with a certain amount of uncertainty and risk. She began her job at BYU Marriott right before the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacted how classes were taught. “I started my job three weeks before everything was shut down,” Mateu says. “Here I was, supposed to create and manage experiences for ExDM students, and I had barely met 10 percent of the students before the pandemic changed things.”
Despite the disruption in schedules and routine that characterized her first few weeks at BYU Marriott, Mateu finds the response of her coworkers and the students in the ExDM program impressive. “Our department, faculty, and students decided to make a good life during a disruptive situation,” she says. “Between adjusting to classes over webcam and working from home, we’ve been on top of things in an extraordinary way.”
Mateu’s position at BYU Marriott encompasses much of her philosophy around learning and the ways people can best internalize lessons. Her goal while working in the ExDM department is to enhance the long-term outcomes for students who go through the program.
“There is a human component to what we teach that is unique to the ExDM department,” she says. “I aim to create strategies that make this program not just professionally beneficial for students who graduate but beneficial in personal ways also. Our goal is for students to be able to say that this program was one of the best experiences of their lives.”
Media Contact: Chad Little: (801) 422-1512
Writer: Madi Wickham