In 2001, Utah made spa industry history
by becoming the first state to pass a bill requiring two levels of licensure
for estheticians – basic and master. While graduation with a basic license
would prepare graduates to enter the workforce performing treatments like
facials, pedicures and hot rock massage, master licensure would launch grads
into the more sophisticated realm of working alongside plastic surgeons and
dermatologists and performing treatments in medi spas.
Within a year of the new legislation,
Mary Ronnow of St. George had opened the doors to The Skin Institute International
School of Esthetics in Southern Utah.
“It was just such a natural fit for
me,” Ronnow said. “I had been teaching after-hours classes for years, and I had
literally worked in every possible aspect of the spa industry – from behind the
counter at Barneys in New York City to the offices of dermatologists and
plastic surgeons throughout the West. I had fabulous connections, so opening up
a school to train a workforce of estheticians made perfect sense to me.”
And it made
perfect sense to her community, as well.
Considering there are 17 spas listed
locally, she said, “We are lucky to live in a place that the world views as a
resort destination and a real sanctuary for relaxation and healing.”
“The weather is reflective of a
resort town, and people love to come and golf and hike and just enjoy what the
beautiful natural environment here has to offer,” she added.
For Ronnow, whose name and reputation
have risen to the top in Western esthetics education, it is both an honor and
responsibility to prepare a ready workforce that is prepared to meet employers’
needs – both locally outside of Utah.
A unique feature of The Skin
Institute (TSI) and a favorite benefit to the local community is the number of
practical hours required for each student. For each of their 300 hours in the
classroom, students spend an equal number hours in the practical setting where
they have opportunities to work on live models. Members of the St. George community
benefit by paying discounted rates to receive services from students who need
practicum hours to complete their training. For example, a 50-minute facial
that might cost $60 at a full-price spa would cost $38 to a patron willing to
accommodate a student in training.
“What we’ve tried to create is a
win-win dynamic for members of the community who enjoy spa services and are
willing to give our students the opportunity to train,” Ronnow said. “We have
women who have been coming for years to let our students work on them, and our
goal is to provide the best spa treatment experience.”
TSI has developed a reputation for
producing industry-ready graduates, which has caused its enrollment to steadily
increase despite the ups and downs of the economy and national market.
“We have developed some very key
relationships with the spa owners in the area,” Ronnow said. “And because there
is such a constant need and demand here, we are drawing students from many
parts of the country who want to come, train and enter right into the
In addition to receiving students from
many parts of the United States, Ronnow has enrolled students from other
countries, including Russia and Mexico, and she is currently working with
international education coordinators in developing student exchange programs
with Korea, China, Mexico, Russia and Chile.
“We are finding that TSI is appealing
to foreign educators for many reasons,” Ronnow said. “Not only do we provide an
opportunity to train at an accredited institute in America, we also offer a
community that is both safe and ripe with job opportunities for estheticians.”
“St. George offers such a wonderful
place for students to come and study and learn,” she added. “When we traveled
to Korea this summer, it helped us realize how important it is to begin offering
international diversity to our student body; and also, that it is critical to
open the minds of our students to international employment opportunities.”
During its 10 years of establishment,
TSI has now graduated 40 classes of estheticians, boasting high rates of
completion, licensure and employment. For example, Ronnow’s 2011 class
graduated with a 100 percent completion rate, 100 percent licensure, and 74
percent industry placement.
“We attribute our statistics to the
wonderful educators and program we have developed and refined over the years,”
Ronnow said. “We work very hard to stay at the forefront of technology and
developments within the industry so our graduates leave job-ready.”
One of the initiatives Ronnow said
she is excited to announce is the addition of new Director of Education Kelli
Charlton to the TSI staff. “Kelli brings a level of professionalism, leadership
and charisma that is unmatched,” Ronnow said. “We are delighted about the
structure and advancements she is bringing to our program and look forward to
the new technologies she is implementing into our curriculum.”
Charlton is the former owner and CEO
of Planet Geothermal and was the Business and Professional Women of Utah
committee chair for Women in Leadership Development, as well as BPW Utah state president from 2007-2008.
After a successful career in business, Charlton returned to
college, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in English education with
emphasis in educational technology. This April, she graduated from Dixie State
College with the honor of “Female Student of the Year.” A licensed professional
educator, Charlton is now serving as director of education at The Skin Institute. She is also a member of the
board of directors for Heart Walk Foundation, an international humanitarian
organization assisting families and children of the starving Q’ero mountain
tribes of Peru.
“Kelli’s enthusiasm and dedication to
the success of our students is unprecedented,” Ronnow said. “We are delighted
to have her join our team and look forward to the wonderful contributions she
will make to the continued success of our curriculum, advancements in
technologies, international outreach and the overall expansion of our school.”
In August of this year, Ronnow said she
experienced a sort of a graduation herself when she brought on Charlton to
serve as school director and moved TSI into a newer, larger location on Dixie
Drive in St. George. “It is really exciting that our growth is allowing for
this kind of expansion,” she said.
Today, graduates of TSI are working
in spas and with cosmetologists and plastic surgeons offices throughout Southern
Utah. Also, Ronnow’s career placement roster boasts placement in spa locations
such as Las Vegas, Hawaii, Jackson Hole, Arizona, Telluride and Midway.
TSI graduate Franchesca Jones works
as a master esthetician at Red Mountain Spa in Ivins, and she has recently
returned to TSI as a part-time instructor. “It is fulfilling to me to give back
to TSI in this way,” she said.
According to Jones, “I returned to
school at age 41 with four children who were all in school. This program helped
me get the education I had always wanted to have, and also to graduate with
such confidence and skills to get a really wonderful job.”
Jones, who is teaching master theory
courses part-time, said,” My wish is to help share what I have learned with
students and to help them achieve their dreams, just as I have been able to