News and Events
The Secrets to Her Success: Elizabeth Unruh, Class of 2005 Valedictorian
By Jovie Baclayon
As Pepperdine welcomes the Class of 2009 to its campus, one person who knows how to maximize the undergraduate experience is Elizabeth Unruh, Seaver College’s Class of 2005 valedictorian. In addition to classes, working part-time and earning straight A’s, Unruh was the event coordinator for the Pepperdine Ambassadors Council (PAC), president of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, and involved in the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) organization and Pepperdine’s Career Coaching program. She also studied overseas four times and attended the prestigious Scimitar Leadership Academy in Washington State.
So how exactly did she do it all? “I’m a very scheduled, organized person,” says Unruh, who was also one of five valedictorians at Fresno Christian High School. “Most of it is the self discipline that was set as an example at home when I was growing up. It instilled the importance of clearly figuring out what it takes to achieve your goals while achieving balance in your life as well.” Being involved in the Pepperdine community and campus life allowed her to combine service or academic involvement with her social life. Unruh, who graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average in business administration, says she didn’t intend to become valedictorian; She was just doing her best while making the most of her college experience.
The University’s campus life is what compelled her to enroll. Keith Whitney, associate professor of business law and chair of the business division, spoke to Unruh at length during the Malibu reception for newly admitted students. He detailed everything Pepperdine had to offer, from the Greek system to the spiritual life on campus. “It just altogether sounded like the perfect place that God had been directing me toward,” explains Unruh. “I’d gone to a Christian school all of my life and I love that environment but I wanted to find a place that was more open and where people could make their own choices. I just really felt that Pepperdine would be a place I felt comfortable but could also expand my horizons.”
Her horizons expanded across the globe when Unruh took advantage of Pepperdine’s International Programs. After her freshman year, she spent the beginning of the summer in France for an intensive language program, then immediately went to London for the C.S. Lewis Conference at Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Unruh returned to London to study during the second semester of her sophomore year, then flew to Asia to join Pepperdine’s Asian Business Tour seminar.
“There was no way I did it myself,” she says humbly of her accomplishments. “God just really blessed me and was with me every step of the way and enabled my success to happen.” She also had a great support system with her family and friends.
Unruh advises students to enter college with an idea of their personal, physical, emotional and spiritual goals, and encourages asking professors tons of questions and seeking all the help needed to understand the coursework. Most important, Unruh says, is being flexible. “It’s important to do the most that you can. It takes self-discipline and is often exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences at Pepperdine for the world,” she says.
Unruh has accepted a job at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills as a front desk agent. She plans to apply to the management-training program after completing the mandatory six-months-to-one-year initial employment period. Her goal is to transition to the corporate side of hotel operations and apply to MBA programs in a couple of years.