Mary Beth Leone
Program: Hospitality Management
Even as Mary Beth Leone's stimulating career in the hotel management and tourism industries was flourishing, she discovered her true calling in the educational arena.
That moment occurred on her very first night in the classroom as a part-time COD faculty member, teaching a humble Housekeeping class.
"I just felt comfortable in the class. I knew that this was where I wanted to be," said Leone, assistant professor of Culinary and Hospitality Management at College of DuPage. "I was happy."
Now a full-time faculty member, Leone draws on a hotel management career that spanned a variety of cities, from Nashville, Dallas and Tucson, to Washington, D.C. And 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.
Her ability to mine varied work experiences at each stop and then translate them into classroom lessons has proven to be a virtual mother lode for her COD students.
Teaching, Leone said, was always in the back of her mind.
It was something that I excelled at when I managed hotels. 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."
This love of teaching has proved successful for Leone, who has been cited in the past as COD's Overall Outstanding Faculty Member. The teaching philosophy of this outstanding faculty member starts with establishing a relationship among 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," she said. "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."