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Student Spotlight: Mario Vazquez, Full-Time MBA ’21

Mario Vasquez, MBA '21

Mario Vazquez, MBA ’21

Mario Vazquez is a first-generation college student from El Paso, Texas, or what he likes to call, “The West Texas Miracle.” His journey to Texas McCombs was one of family support and inspiration.

His parents grew up in Matamoros Tamaulipas, a border town in Northern Mexico. They moved to the United States after his dad was offered a job as an electrical engineer in El Paso.  

Mario was born three years later. His parents wanted him to have the best education possible, so they started researching schools and colleges when Mario was only a baby. His mother was especially dedicated to his future and went above and beyond for his education.

My parents, in their mid 20’s, moved to a new country with almost nothing to their name. I often think about how exciting and terrifying the move must have been. They did everything within their power to give me a chance at a better life. My mother learned of a grade school that was known for its strong academic reputation but when she inquired about enrolling me, there were only two spots left and they would be given on a first-come first-served basis at 7 a.m. the very next day. Undeterred, my mom spent the night in the parking lot of what would become my grade school. When the doors opened at 7 a.m. the next morning, she was the second parent in line and I was the last student registered.”

Young Mario with his mother

When it was time for Mario to enroll in high school, his parents weren’t familiar with the American high school to college pipeline. Mario and his parents researched together and discovered that Cathedral High School, a private, Catholic high school in El Paso, maintained a 100% college acceptance rate, but tuition was expensive for the family.

“In El Paso and Matamoros, college is more often a dream than a possibility. My mom, with the same tenacity she showed in enrolling me for kindergarten, found every single scholarship I could apply for and by the first day of school, I was an enrolled student at Cathedral High School and on my path to college.”

Mario eventually enrolled at Stanford University, graduating in 2013 with a B.A. in Science, Technology, and Society. While he was there, he joined and led an organization dedicated to providing need-based scholarships to graduating high school students attending two-year or four-year institutions.

“Being a first-generation, low-income student of Hispanic descent in higher education was the exception, not the norm. I looked for a community of individuals with backgrounds similar to my own, which I found in joining and leading an organization called Los Hermanos de Stanford. As a group, we fundraised annually to provide need-based scholarships to graduating high school students attending two-year colleges and universities. I felt that I was reciprocating the investment so many people had made in me over the years. At that point, I knew how I wanted to use my life– helping students from difficult circumstances earn access to life-changing opportunities.

Mario and his family at his college graduation in 2013.

Mario and his family at his college graduation in 2013.

After college, Mario accepted a position with Teach for America as a 1st-grade language instructor. He loved working with students and noticed how they were impacted by family circumstances or obstacles that he could not help with through teaching alone. He realized that he wanted to scale his impact beyond the classroom. He returned home to work at his alma mater,  Cathedral High School, as the Director of Admissions.

“For those three years at Cathedral, I conveyed the dream of a better life to every student and parent who walked the halls of our school. Throughout my tenure at Cathedral High School, I succeeded in increasing the number of underserved students and the dollar amount of scholarships that we could provide them. On a daily basis I had the opportunity to help change the course of a young person’s life. Working at Cathedral was an honor, the most fun I have ever had, and will forever be one of my proudest accomplishments..”

Mario’s “Why McCombs?”

Mario never imagined he would end up in business school. But while driving around El Paso, he would see a Texas McCombs MBA billboard, and it stuck in his mind.

“Truth be told, I did not think I’d get into business school. I wasn’t sure if top business schools would see the value of my experience in education. I was hard on myself, thinking that perhaps I wasn’t good enough. But my friends and colleagues encouraged me to put forth my best effort and believe in myself– and so I did. I reminded myself that I was worthy and deserving of receiving additional education. I’m blessed to be surrounded by good people, and I’m so grateful I didn’t give up.”

Mario says what sealed his decision to come to McCombs was his experience at Discover McCombs: Diversity Weekend and the opportunity to apply to McCombs through The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an alliance of top business schools and companies committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership.

“When I came to Austin for Diversity Weekend, I had not applied to The Consortium, an organization that provides access to MBA admissions resources for underrepresented students. Jaden Felix, my McCombs admissions officer, took note of that and vehemently encouraged me to apply. To me, someone who has always looked for a community, it was a sign that I would be cared for here at McCombs.

Mario had seen first-hand that even a well-funded, prestigious school like Cathedral couldn’t circumvent every challenge that students face or provide enough aid for every student to attend. He hopes that business school can help him achieve his goal of launching and operating a school that houses an ecosystem of academic and non-academic support for its students and their families. 

For every student I was able to enroll at Cathedral or secure a scholarship for, there were at least a handful more that I could not because of socioeconomic reasons, lack of school resources, etc. Cathedral does a lot of good for so many students, myself included, and all kids deserve a good school with people who genuinely care about their success. I decided to pursue an MBA because I want to dedicate my life toward scaling the impact of schools located in underrepresented and underserved communities.”

Mario’s Advice to You 

“The great thing about McCombs is that the people here, from the staff to students and alumni, have reiterated one common phrase: ‘Don’t forget why you came here.’ To me, this phrase serves as a constant reminder to remember how I have benefited from the kindness and help of others, and my responsibility to do the same.”

“Don’t devalue your experiences and don’t worry about not having the perfect academic or professional profile. I like to think that Texas McCombs, more so than other schools, tries to find people who have made a real impact in whatever capacity they served and genuinely want to do good in the world.”


Stay up to date with all things McCombs by subscribing to our newsletter. Follow us on Instagram to see more about student life. If you have any questions, please reach out to MBA Admissions. Hook ’em!

Women’s Weekend 2019 Recap

This November, Texas McCombs welcomed 55 future MBAs to our annual Women’s Weekend.  This event  was designed for anyone committed to the empowerment of women in business. The weekend brought attendees together to meet current MBA students, alumni, McCombs faculty & staff, and to see first-hand all that Texas McCombs and Austin has to offer.

Welcome to Austin

One of the many reasons why students choose McCombs is for the vibrant business community in Austin. To that end, the weekend kicked off with a welcome reception on Friday evening, sponsored by Austin-based company Bumble Bizz, and hosted at The Riveter, a co-working space designed by women, for everyone, in the heart of downtown Austin. During the welcome reception, attendees had the opportunity to meet current students and members of Graduate Women in Business (GWiB), an MBA student organization dedicated to the personal and professional development of women.

“A woman in business, to me, looks like the women that are in my program. They are poised. They are confident. And I admire how genuine they are and how many programs and activities they are involved in, and I try to match their energy as well”

 Caroline Okocha, MBA ’20

GWiB hosts events throughout the year that focus on advocacy, difficult conversations in the workplace, gender identity, and how to be an ally. Every week, GWiB posts a new #WCW (“Woman Crush Wednesday”) post to highlight members within the community.

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Every week, we feature a woman from our community. Our #wcw this week is first year Presney Blackman! #whymccombs Hometown: Cincinnati, OH Past Work Experience: Key Account Manager for Dow Chemical Company Future Career Goals: I’d like to begin my career in Tech Marketing and eventually go into entrepreneurship McCombs Organizations and Leadership Positions: McCombs Ambassador Committee, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, MBA Tech Club, GWiB, Marketing Fellows What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you would like to share with GWIB members? Run your race. It’s easy, especially in business school, to look to what others are doing as an indication of what we should be doing. However, the gifts you have been given are different from the gifts of others. Be true to who you are and don’t live to meet the expectations of others. Do you have any book or podcast recommendations? Loving Revisionist History by Malcom Gladwell & The Real Life Podcast with Jefferson Bethke and his wife Alyssa. Who is YOUR #wcw and why? Serena Williams is my #wcw. She is a fighter! I am in awe of her strength, femininity, vulnerability and her love for her husband and child and dedication to her craft. She’s inspired this next generation of young black American tennis players and it is a privilege to be able to witness. She’s the #GOAT!

A post shared by GWiB at McCombs (@gwibmccombs) on

Current MBA student, Jessica Reese-White, says that attending Women’s Weekend when she was applying in 2018 gave her insight into the culture and strengthened her decision to attend McCombs.

“A lot of programs tell you they have a very welcoming culture for women, but you want to actually see that in practice. McCombs prioritizes diverse classes and having strong representation. It’s still mostly men in the world of business and I think it’s important for me as a queer woman of color to be here and show women that they have a space here in the program, and that there are other people like them here.” 

— Jessica Reese-White, MBA ‘21

After the reception, attendees were invited to Upstairs at Caroline, a popular Austin nightspot, for a casual night out with current MBA students.

Getting to Know Texas McCombs

Day two kicked off bright and early with a welcome introduction by Assistant Dean Tina Mabley, rocking matching “Lady Boss” shirts with her daughter.   

Assistant Dean Tina Mabley and her daughter in matching "Lady Boss" shirts.

Assistant Dean Tina Mabley and her daughter show off their “Lady Boss” shirts at Women’s Weekend.

Current MBA students Claire Austin, Presney Blackman, Sophie Roane, and Vicky Wu, presented an overview of the program, followed by an insightful “Career Exploration” talk by Assistant Dean of Graduate Career Management, Janet Huang, that highlighted why McCombs Career Services ranks as one of the best in the country

Janet shared what she believes is the best way to find a balance in a successful career: Ikigai, a Japanese concept that means, “reason for being.”

Janet during her presentation

Janet Huang talks about career resources at Discover McCombs: Women’s Weekend.

Finding strong avenues for career building and advancement is a common challenge for women in business. MBA ’20, Catherine Laclede, said that while the gender distribution highly depends on your industry, top 20 business schools, including McCombs, are taking steps towards gender parity.

“I’m pursuing marketing which tends to be more women-dominated, so I don’t feel the difference as much; but for women who are considering consulting or investment banking, that difference can be more pronounced and noticeable. Having organizations and an event like this where you see other women who really want to do the same things really validates what you want to pursue.” 

— Catherine Laclede, MBA ‘20

Before lunch, attendees heard from a “Beyond the MBA” alumni panel. These women shared success stories about how Texas McCombs helped them grow professionally and personally. The attendees then broke out into mock classes with professors Marissa Epstein and Julia Coronado for a first-hand experience inside the classroom. 

A picture of The Beyond the MBA Alumni Panel at Discover McCombs: Women's Weekend by a banner that says "advancing the world together."

The “Beyond the MBA” Alumni Panel at Discover McCombs: Women’s Weekend.

At noon, everyone got a taste of Austin Tex-Mex from local favorite, Fresa’s, during a networking lunch with current MBA students. During the lunch, MBAs offered more personalized, candid insights and valuable tips for applying to McCombs. 

After lunching and learning, MBA+ Communication Coach, Amira Pollock, led a workshop on leadership presence where she talked about the secret to improv, the importance of non-verbal communication, and outlined the difference between confidence and courage.

“Confidence is how you present yourself, courage is the energy to do it. Next time you’re nervous, tell yourself that it’s okay. You’re going to do this anyway.”

– Amira Pollock, MBA Communication Coach

Real Talk: Women in Business

Before the close of the weekend, current students led a panel where they shared their experiences as women in the business world and gave insight into what being a student at McCombs is really like day-to-day.

“All the Fellows programs have female presidents — that just really speaks to the caliber of women we have at McCombs.” 

Maria-Paula Muñoz Carley, MBA ‘20.

“I believe the biggest struggle women face in business is the lack of representation at the higher level. A big way to overcome that is by getting more women into business.. And that’s why I’m here at the McCombs getting my MBA – I want to be at the top and I want to help other women succeed down the line” 

— Kathie Xiao, MBA ‘20

“You’re definitely going to need an environment where you feel supported and like it’s okay to fail and grow. Knowing that McCombs had a strong group of women that were so invested in each other’s success was really inspiring to me, and really made me feel confident about the decision I was going to make.”

Catherine Laclede, MBA ‘20

women at mccombs

Current Texas McCombs MBA students

Women’s Weekend came to an end with student hosts Kathie Xiao and Caroline Okocha’s talk: #WhyMcCombs: A Story in “Mememojis.” 🤘😁 Kathie kicked off the panel by sharing some challenges she’s faced.

“I’ve gained so much confidence in my business school experience because I’ve put myself in situations where I’m going to be uncomfortable a lot. But, you don’t grow unless you become uncomfortable and push yourself to the edge.”

— Kathie Xiao, MBA ‘20

Alongside her, Caroline shared that getting an MBA is, “a way for women to break the glass ceiling.” Both of them ended the event by sharing the following advice for prospective students:

  1. Don’t panic. Focus on your goals; you don’t have to have it all figured out.
  2. Celebrate your own accomplishments, but also those of all the amazing people around you. We’re all competitive people, but we all want to help each other. This is your community. 
  3. Have fun and make the most of these two years. Find your people, find your place.

“McCombs is a place where you can fight stereotypes. There’s genuine care in the program. We want to be there for you.”

 Caroline Okocha, MBA ’20


If you have any questions, please reach out to MBA Admissions. For more information on our community and programs, check out our websiteHook ’em!

National First-Gen College Day
at McCombs

In conjunction with UT’s First-Generation College Celebration and the National First-Generation College Celebration this week, we’re proud to highlight several first-generation students in our Texas McCombs MBA community. 

Jose Carlos Rojas

Jose's headshot photo.

Jose Rojas
MBA at Houston ’20

Jose is a first-generation college graduate and Texas McCombs at Houston MBA ’20 student. The hardest thing about being first-gen, he says, was having, “no reference point,” he could go back to as he immersed himself in college. He explains the journey as being lonely as his parents tried their best to understand and help him adjust to this new environment. Despite the challenges, his motivation and dedication to his family were key factors to his academic success. 

 

“After my family and I moved from Chile, I always felt an obligation to make my parents’ sacrifices worth it. I see them work very hard and I continue to strive to alleviate some of that burden from them. I started looking at MBAs once I saw my career pick up steam. I have gathered a lot of technical knowledge through my experience and felt that I needed to round myself out by pairing it with some business acumen. I chose Texas McCombs because of its great reputation, world-class faculty, and the flexibility it allowed me to have without having to quit my job.”

When asked about what advice he would give to other first-gen students, Jose strongly believes in the value of community, and that you don’t need to go through this difficult journey on your own. Currently, he’s working on getting his younger sister into college, and trying to ease any stress points she’s presently encountering that he’s been able to overcome.

“Surround yourself with people that will help, motivate and care for you. There’s value in not making college just about studying: Join clubs and activities to immerse yourself into your college and get a full experience.”

Emy Hernandez

Emy with her parents at graduation.

“For my parents, they came with nothing and gave me everything.”

Emy is a Texas McCombs MBA at Houston alumna. Her family, who only had a primary school education, inspired her and her sister to pursue higher education, instilling the value of having access to education from an early age. For Emy, having a strong community and support system to guide her has been a key factor in her success. 

“Find your community within the school that you are in, and find a mentor, staff member, or professor who can help guide your decisions. Being the first in your family to attend college, whether undergraduate or graduate school, can be intimidating and it is important that students know there is someone who can guide them.”

Along her journey towards higher education, Hernandez had difficulty dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Nevertheless, Emy is proof that you can overcome any challenge with hard work, dedication and strong support systems.

“Do not be afraid to take the next step in your personal and professional life; whether you’re applying for a new job or pursuing an additional degree. I am a Latina, queer, daughter of immigrants, inner-city Houston-raised, and graduate of a high school known as a ‘drop-out factory’ – the statistics were against me. It wasn’t easy, and today I am proud of what I have accomplished and I know my parents and my community are too.”

Waldo Arreola

Headshot for Waldo Arreola

Waldo Arreola
Full-Time MBA ’20

Waldo is a first-generation Full-Time Class of 2020 MBA at Texas McCombs. As a child, he was raised by “hard-working immigrant parents” that highly encouraged his intellectual development, and his interest in puzzles and systems within math and science, which eventually led to a bachelor’s degree in engineering & management. 

During his time as an undergrad and graduate student, Arreola struggled to adjust to the demands that time management and personal accountability have on students. However, having strong mentorships and student involvement helped him stay engaged, help others and invest in his future.

“Be curious! Ask questions! Connect with people! Get involved! First-generation students might not have as many resources as others, including networks, and might have the added pressure of supporting family members with their personal success, so it is critical to be engaged and deliberate as you pursue your personal and professional goals.”


If you have any questions, please reach out to MBA Admissions. For more information on our community and programs, check out our website. Hook ’em!

The MBA at DFW is Moving to The Centrum!

The McCombs School of Business has found a new home for the Dallas/Fort Worth Weekend MBA  at The Centrum in Uptown Dallas. The highly visible, 17,000 square-foot, first-floor space will open in the fall and provide interactive classrooms, group study and breakout rooms, individual study nooks, 16-seat board interactive room, meeting rooms, offices, and open community space. The new location will accommodate current and future classes and provide easy access from multiple freeways for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

“We’re excited to move to our new home at The Centrum, which will give us a central location to the DFW business community. The new location will increase the awareness and reputation of the program within that community, while also providing a space that’s customized for the needs of our students,”

– Dave Jackson, Sr. Admissions Officer, MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth

What The Centrum Has to Offer

The Centrum is located in Uptown Dallas and provides unique opportunities for students to network and connect with other innovative organizations including Capital FactorySalesforce, and BRIT Systems,  who all operate within the building.

Amenities include a fitness center, five restaurants, a coffee shop, a tenant lounge, rooftop deck,  outdoor courtyard, underground parking, secure bike room/racks, and more.

“The new location is in the middle of the action in Dallas – it’s lively, has proximity to the major highways and is in a rapidly developing area in uptown. The modern design and innovative use of space will allow better collaboration between the students, faculty, and professors. The tech-friendly, connected hub will facilitate better quality study group meetings, private rooms to review exam material, and ample space to practice presentations.”

Claire Mitzner, Texas McCombs MBA ’20

The building’s many amenities will make it a premier gathering place for our MBA students in all stages of their MBA journey. The Texas McCombs community is excited to show off our new Dallas home at admissions events, student events, and alumni gatherings starting this fall!

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Student Spotlight: Ricardo Robles, Houston MBA Class of 2020

Ricardo Robles Jr. Headshot

Ricardo Robles Jr. Houston MBA Class of 2020

This past fall, 84 new MBA students started at Texas McCombs as part of the Houston MBA Class of 2020!

We recently caught up with Ricardo Robles Jr., a Houston native who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. He has worked as an engineer at Pacific Drilling, an engineering consultant at Lloyd’s Register and is currently a Senior Specialist for Performance at Rowan Companies.

Ricardo’s “Why McCombs?”

Ricardo first saw an MBA as a “springboard” for developing his skills in business and expanding his network. He believed an MBA would accelerate his professional progression and open up new avenues for success. He is most excited to continue building relationships in the program that will impact him for the rest of his life.

“Texas McCombs was always at the top of my choices for multiple reasons: the reputation of the program, the excellent professors, and the global network to name a few. Analyzing the program on paper put it on the top of my list but meeting the staff and other prospective students through information sessions made me sure that Texas McCombs was the right choice for me.”

McCombs Impact 

Ricardo’s notable experiences include studying statistics with real world applications and collaboration with students from different backgrounds.

“The diversity of the student body has really helped me refine my collaboration skills with people who may be very different from me. Collaboration has been a major part of this program from the beginning and I’m looking forward to working with my classmates more.”

Ricardo’s Advice to You

For those of you interested in applying for your MBA at Texas McCombs, Ricardo has some advice for you:

“Attend an information event!. They are helpful at every stage of the process. Whether you are still wondering if an MBA is the right choice for you or which program you should pursue at Texas McCombs, events are a great resource to experience the culture and talk to current students.”


Visit Texas McCombs MBA  to find out more about all our programs, events and community, or join the #WhyMcCombs conversation on Twitter. Hook ’em!

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