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Elizabeth Ndungu

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Elizabeth Ndungu

Virginia Beach, VA

Academic School

Professional Programs


New York

Elizabeth Ndungu is the General Manager of TownePlace Suites in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She finished her undergraduate degree in January 2015, earning magna cum laude honors in Marist’s Liberal Studies major and focusing on Leadership, Professional Studies, and Psychology. 

How did you end up pursuing your undergraduate degree at Marist?  What did you study?

When I started at Marist, I was working at the Courtyard by Marriott in Poughkeepsie, and my General Manager was mentoring me to move into a leadership role. I wanted to learn more about leadership, and I had a great interest in psychology as well. At that moment, I decided to switch my major from computer studies to leadership and psychology to help me become a better leader and more of an expert in human resources.

How did you balance work, classes, and life?  What kept you going?

Balancing everything was definitely a challenge. I was recently married, doing almost 18 credits a semester, and traveling for work. What kept me going was picturing the finish line. My General Manager at the time would tell me to think of the end game then start formulating my goals, so I kept picturing graduation in two and half years. I looked to the future and envisioned being able to use the knowledge I was gaining to help my staff. I knew that the faster I could learn it, the faster I could use it.

What are some highlights of your Marist experience?

The Marist campus is beautiful, breathtaking, and exhilarating. I remember watching other students sitting under trees with their headphones on reading, and observing students and faculty running towards their classes.I also loved watching the change of seasons. In terms of academics, I loved the interactive discussions online and hearing the viewpoints of the professors and my fellow adult students. All of my professors were very understanding of adult students and the tough balance that is required. They also geared discussions to the class and its diversity.

What was your favorite class and why?

My favorite class was definitely Communication in Organizational Change. At the time I took this class, I was a task force manager. My priority was to manage different hotels and implement lasting change.In order for me to be successful in my role, it was critical for me to learn as much as I could about how to communicate change and keep the company successful.My professor was AMAZING! She was tough, but passionate about the class. She understood if you could not send in a paper by the deadline, but she was also tough on grading. It was definitely not an easy A, but you learned a lot.

How many of your classes were online versus hybrid or on-ground?

All of my classes were online. I didn’t have to go to campus, but I chose to!

What’s your current job, and how did your Marist educational experience prepare you for what you’re doing?

I am currently a General Manager for Managed by Marriott, North America’s largest hotel management organization. When I was at Marist, I was an Operations Manager, and I believe my classes and group discussions helped me skip over the Assistant General Manager position and go straight to General Manager of a 100-room hotel on Long Island. My accounting classes helped me with the profit and loss statements I have to review every month, and my organizational communication class helped with the Starwood/Marriott merger that took place. In addition, my group discussions and presentations have informed my interactions with my hotel owner, former boss, and current boss – in answering their questions, I always draw upon the lessons I learned in my undergraduate program.

Professionally, where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

I would like to be making a difference for the people I work with and helping the company succeed. In five years, I hope to ensure that the hotel I manage, as well as the surrounding hotels, are both financially successful and socially responsible, e.g., helping the community with food collections, coat drives, etc. I would love to work for Marriott International’s corporate office assisting with learning and professional development. I have always admired my faculty members and the way they change lives through teaching, so being able to keep the Marriott culture alive through learning would be a dream come true.

Is there any advice you’d share with current adult undergraduates at Marist?

Visualize your goal and how the classes you are taking will enhance your career and your future. Also, work with your professors because communication is key. There were times when the work/life balance was strained, and I had to ask for an extension, but just be honest with your professor and they will understand.But be sure you don’t mistake their kindness for weakness! Treat them as you would like to be treated – with respect.