Rocio Garza first arrived in Corpus Christi on a Greyhound bus with all of her clothes in garbage bags, $60 to her name and an acceptance letter.
Garza was born in the city of Mazatlán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, and she moved with her family to Laredo when she was two years old.
"This is where Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is tied in," she remembered. "I wanted to pursue my undergrad here, but at the time I was just moving around a lot. It was not always a very stable childhood. Corpus Christi was not too far, but not too close."
Garza did not even have a plan for where she would sleep when she first arrived in Corpus Christi, but she was able to stay in the dorms while she figured out her finances.
"My life at Corpus Christi took a turn," she said. "I had been submitting some modeling pictures to the TV station, and there began my 10-year career in TV."
Acting is still a creative outlet for Garza today, but working on the lead generation team for Turnkey Vacation Rentals, a lodging startup in Austin, inspired her interest in business. She is also one of the founding members of the company, which opened its doors in 2013.
Being interested in differentiating herself from other candidates for future opportunities, when Garza saw an advertisement for TAMU-CC's online Master of Business Administration degree program, she jumped at the chance to earn an advanced degree from the same university that took her in when she felt completely alone.
Translating Words into Action
There are some things that just can't be learned on the job. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi's AACSB-accredited online program is helping Garza fill those gaps and feel confident taking on more responsibilities in a growing business.
"I'm enjoying it because I'm getting to expose myself to a little bit of a lot of things that I would not have otherwise seen with my company or my undergrad," she said.
Garza, who holds an undergraduate degree in multidisciplinary studies, said, "I love academics, and I'm enjoying being a student again. You have to find your way to connect with your circumstances, with the text, and make it applicable to your work. I was worried about that early on, but it is very applicable."
If you were to walk up to Garza's desk today, you would find a copy of the textbook from MGMT 5320: Organizational Behavior and Theory for its coverage of HR management, marketing and the structure of an organization. Applying the concepts learned in this class has helped Garza develop and implement new strategies with her team. Watching ideas born on the page transform into tangible results in the real world has done a lot to help boost her self-confidence and feelings of empowerment.
One of the other standout classes in Garza's experience was MKTG 5320: Marketing Management, which has allowed her to make a real impact on her company.
"I came out of it energized and wanting to do these comparative analyses and try all of these different marketing concepts that I hadn't really known about," she said.
This class has also helped Garza provide the sales team at Turnkey Rentals with improved sales pitches and other tools needed to increase business growth. Overall, the MBA program has helped Garza find her way in the business world, with much of her studies applicable to real world tasks.
Graduate school is tough whether you are doing the coursework online or in a traditional classroom. It is hard to find the balance between a job, school and your passion, but Garza believes that having the right frame of mind is key.
"Make sure that you're doing this for the right reasons," she said. "This is very time-consuming and there's a lot of sacrifice that comes with it, but the reward, it's all worth it."
Garza is about halfway through the program and expects to graduate in December 2020, taking one class at a time to accommodate her job and her acting projects.
"I work full time, and I also have a talent agent, so I have to be available for any projects that I audition or book," she said. "I have to get very creative with all three of them: with work, with class and with my auditions."
Tapping that creativity has paid off for Garza. She has been able to find success in both her career and in her side projects. In addition, the ability to improvise, being disciplined, and handling rejection with grace are skills that have translated well from acting to her marketing career.
Garza has kept these two worlds separate up until now, but she would like to bring them together should the right opportunity present itself.
Growth for Herself and Others
An MBA may help you grow into your full capabilities as a business leader, and that business could be anything you set your mind to.
"I would love to be a consultant and then be able to still do my acting and possibly produce my own projects, which requires a business component," she said. "There are different components to movies. I'd love to be able to do both. They may be synergistic."
Ultimately, Garza has an eye on using her growing business acumen as a way of building up the people who share her culture and heritage. The skills learned during her MBA journey will allow her to work as a consultant, with the flexibility to travel and work remotely, while creating content based on her Latina background that will assist other Latinas achieve their dreams.
Wherever Garza's journey may take her, she still keeps $60 in her wallet as a reminder of where she's been.
"I don't strive to be famous," she said. "I strive to be purposeful."
Learn more about the TAMU-CC online MBA program.
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