Program: Hospitality Management
Mary Beth Leone’s hotel management career has spanned a variety of cities across the nation.
With each move came new promotions and opportunities. For example, she initiated a “butler service” on specialty floors in a luxury Dallas hotel; trained at a Washington, D.C., hotel that hosted a presidential inaugural ball; and opened a hotel in Nashville.
Even as her career in the hotel management and tourism industries was flourishing, Leone always had teaching in the back of her mind.
“It was something that I excelled at when I managed hotels,” she said. “I always tried really hard to grow my people and to make sure that they were developing and that they would do the best they could for what they wanted and for what the hotel needed."
Leone discovered her true calling in the educational arena on her very first night in the classroom as a part-time College of DuPage faculty member, teaching a Housekeeping course.
“I just felt comfortable in the class. I knew that this was where I wanted to be,” she said. “I was happy."
Her ability to mine her varied work experiences and then translate them into classroom lessons has proven to be invaluable for her students. Leone starts with establishing a relationship between herself and her students. Taking a cue from one of her professors at Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Restaurant, Hotel, Institutional and Tourism Management, Leone begins to connect with her charges the very first day of class.
“Being able to connect with my professors helped me and I need to do the same for my students,” said Leone, who was named a College-Wide Outstanding Faculty Member. “I try really hard to get to know them. At the very beginning of each class, I learn their names and begin to understand why they are in my class. I find out what motivates them.
“The more I get to know them, the better I am in understanding what they need. Each individual needs something different from their teacher, and it is up to the educator to figure out what that is.”
During her time at COD, Leone was instrumental in getting a boutique hotel on campus as part of the Culinary & Hospitality Center, which opened in 2011. The Inn at Water's Edge boasts six fully-appointed suites, a front desk, laundry services and a breakfast room and is open to the public.
The Inn is also a learning lab, where Hotel Management students play an integral role in the guest experience.
“The Inn at Water’s Edge gives our students true hands-on experience as they prepare for careers in the hospitality industry,” she said. “Our students must work at the Inn before they can graduate. Having the ability to interact with guests while learning from instructors without leaving campus provides our students an advantage when they begin looking for jobs.
“Watching my students evolve, from the moment they begin classes through working at the Inn, makes me proud. It’s a constant reminder of why I love teaching so much.”