Meet Naomi Virgen, Pathways for the Future (2021-2022) Awardee

Pathways for the Future awardee Naomi Virgen manages a prominent resort full time, has young children, and is successfully earning credits towards a Bachelors in Social Justice and Human Rights. Read Naomi's journey below.



I have spent the last eight years in the hotel industry. At the beginning, I thought this was going to be my career path. I had big dreams to work in a corporate office and the desire to train new general managers or help properties that were struggling. I want to be the type of leader that guides and develops people to achieve success. As I was working my way up the corporate ladder, I started to see the challenges of what it meant to work in corporate America. I experienced harsh working conditions, including discrimination and sexism, and was under an immense amount of pressure and stress within the industry. I was baffled by the fact that as a black female general manager in 2021, that I would not be treated as equal to my counterparts based on my gender and race. I was further outraged and disheartened that while we worked with a diverse staff, management would treat staff differently based on gender and race as well. I was even discouraged from hiring a woman of color because her hair (which was neatly braided) was considered unprofessional and because her name was “to challenging” to pronounce.

In reflection of my experience, I took about six months off to reevaluate what I wanted to truly do with my career. I knew I wanted to be in a leadership role, and I knew I wanted to continue to work in the hotel industry. I also knew I didn’t want to be a part of organizations that treated their staff members with such a lack of respect. This led to my decision to go back to school for Human Rights and Social Justice. Something that is extremely important to me and would positively impact how I manage my current and future staff. The idea of going back to school was terrifying, to say the least, but Arizona State University has been such a blessing and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for taking this next step in life to further my education. My dinnertime has become joint “study-time” for my 5-year son, who also does his schoolwork while I do mine. My education is at the forefront of my family’s priorities which has made this experience that much more worthwhile.

I am proud to be a student at ASU, of the program I have chosen, and proud to say that I am not only a student, but also managing life as a mother and wife. As I began my educational journey, my future started to get a little bit brighter. I will be able to use my skills, knowledge, and leadership to help the community, my neighbors, my staff and utilize my voice to advocate for what is right!