Graduation is a Time for Celebration
At the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, we have exceptional students, and they all have a unique journey and story to share. Each individual featured here has overcome obstacles, discovered inspiration and forged new paths. These graduating students entered their programs hungry for knowledge and the tools to succeed in today's digitally driven business world. During Commencement, they will walk across the stage celebrating their achievements and stepping forward into a bright future.
Meet The Class of 2019
When Borja Alonso Monforte, FTMBA '19, began his first year at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, he struggled to juggle interviews, exams and case competitions. It was stressful, to be sure.
But he was determined to make the most of his time at the Merage School. The Full-Time MBA program appealed to him because of its small class size, and it's ideal location in Southern California –– which is a long way from his home in Spain. Soon, Monforte learned that he didn't have to go it alone.
"I was amazed by the program's ability to foster teamwork," he says. "From day one, I felt supported by everyone around me. I established close relationships with my classmates, and faculty members were easily accessible."
In the end, Monforte was pleased with the results of his dedication and participation. Upon graduation, he will join the Corporate Finance Team at Mattel, a company that aligns with Monforte's own values, and, importantly, has a strong international presence.
As he prepares to leave the Merage School, Monforte advises incoming students to get involved in extracurricular activities –– clubs, case competitions, residential trips and social events. "By doing so, your MBA experience will be much more enriching."
Fully Employed MBA
Marisol Christinson, FEMBA '19, was on a mission from the moment she enrolled the UCI Paul Merage School of Business: she wanted to gain the skills and tools she needed to move into a senior leadership role within her organization.
But she didn't have the background in finance, nor the leadership skills, that she felt would give her the best opportunity to accomplish her goals. "I needed to help position myself to be a more attractive candidate, and the best way to do that was to get an MBA," she says.
Coming from a computer engineering background, Christinson challenged herself with finance classes, and leaned on the support of her classmates to help her through it. "Everyone was very approachable and it was great having a diverse range of students in class to learn from."
Now, Christinson feels prepared to take her career to the next level.
"Being able to see myself grow, in both experience and confidence in my leadership abilities, is a major accomplishment," she says. "I can see how much I've grown in the past three years, which assures me that this was a great investment in myself and in my future."
MBA for Executives
Oswaldo Diaz, EMBA '19, was on the road to leadership before he enrolled in the MBA for Executives program at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business. But it was the knowledge and network provided by Merage School that enabled Diaz to step into a senior management position before graduation.
"The EMBA has been a personal and transformative journey. When I started the program I had very specific goals in mind, but I have learned and grown, and expanded my interests with new experiences," Diaz said. "The program gave a whole different flavor to the journey."
Diaz was originally drawn to the Merage School because of its high rankings and ideal location. But as he graduates, he feels gratitude for the opportunities such as the ability to co-found a nonprofit, Synergy4Vets, visit hi-tech companies in Israel and launch his own radio show "Change Agents" at KUCI radio.
Diaz has already joined the Dean's Leadership Circle at the Merage School, where he can offer incoming students guidance and mentorship, and continue to network with industry professionals.
"The value of the program is not only the education, but the network. The Merage School has a great network, and I want to continue stay involved with our community."
Tyler Parker-Chavez, BA economics '16 and MPAC '19, had completed his bachelor's degree at UCI, but he didn't know how to enter the field of accounting.
So, he accepted a position as a banker, and for the next two years, he learned how to communicate with clients, handle stressful situations and analyze tax returns.
During that time, Parker-Chavez encountered several CPAs as clients, who inspired him to pursue formal education in accounting. He happily returned to UCI to complete his Master of Professional Accountancy, where he embraced the many hands-on learning opportunities and networking events provided by the Merage School.
Parker-Chavez has accepted a position as a tax consultant at Deloitte upon graduation. "My decision to go into tax came from my experience at the bank," he says. "I enjoyed maintaining client relationships, while diving into more complex tax returns, rather than basic personal returns."
As for his time at the Merage School, he is grateful for the opportunity to step outside of his comfort zone and take risks, with the support of the community. "I am most proud of my ability to maintain a high GPA, while balancing my extracurricular activities." he says. "I hope to finish spring quarter strong, and so far, I am on the right track."
Master of Finance
In just four years, Michelle Quilici, BA economics '18 and MFin '19, has achieved more than most college students: she has completed both an undergraduate and graduate degree from UCI. After witnessing the benefits of the tightly knit Merage School community during her undergraduate program, the decision to attend the UCI Paul Merage School of Business was a no brainer.
"The solid financial foundation I could acquire through the program, followed by its unique network, high prestige, and qualified administrators, was one step forward in achieving my long-term goals," Quilici says.
As she prepares to graduate, Quilici is delighted with the skills, knowledge and diverse network that she gained during her time at the school. Though she felt intimidated and less experienced than her classmates at times, she is grateful for the opportunity to strengthen her weaknesses and discover her full potential.
Quilici plans to travel for a year after graduation before heading to New York, where she will begin her career as a financial planner and analyst within the healthcare industry. "I very much enjoy the responsibilities of a financial planner and analyst," she adds, "and I found an industry I am quite passionate about."
Science in Business Analytics
Pablo Barajas, MSBA '19, he was excited to advance his career at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, and keen on the school's focus on digital transformation and location on the Tech Coast.
But there was one challenge that he had to work hard to overcome: learning how to code.
Barajas has a background in finance, but when he started the Master of Science in Business Analytics, he felt many of his peers with computer science degrees were ahead of him. "I had to spend a significant amount of time learning how to code," he explains.
But he put in the time and effort, and ended up co-founding the Merage Analytics Club to improve the academic experience at the school. Just as the Merage School faculty and staff ensured the success of its students, the Merage Analytics Club serves to support incoming MSBA students.
Upon graduation, Barajas strives to put his newfound skills to use in data analytics or data science. "I am passionate about finding real and actionable insights from data, and I enjoy the challenge of a leadership position," he adds.
Vy Le, BA '19, was drawn to the UCI Paul Merage School of Business because of its intimate growing business community. In fact, she grew to love her peers, professors and the environment at UCI so much that she decided to move to Irvine.
As for her own accomplishments, Le is most proud of her time as a member of the Merage Undergraduate Student Association. "Over the span of four years, I was able to contribute and lead certain initiatives and programs such as the Merage Spirit Weeks and Mocktail Mixer," she says. "It was through MUSA that I was able to be inspired by other students, and hopefully I was able to help a few in return."
Upon graduation, Le will harness the skills she learned as a member of the Students Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations at UCI and join Deloitte Consulting as a Business Technology Analyst.
In the meantime, she advises newcomers to "attend a new event, compete in a competition, or try out a student organization at least once. I can't emphasize enough that Merage has some of the most inspiring and hardworking students that you will get the chance to meet. I would recommend getting involved in something you find interesting, and meet amazing students through these opportunities."
When Lucy Zhen, BA '19, arrived at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, she thought that it would be difficult to get to know others and establish a network, both personally and professionally. But she quickly fell in love with the tight-knit Merage community, the Merage Undergraduate Student Association and the inspirational individuals that she met there.
As a MUSA representative and an executive board member, she was able to plan events, offer input on programs, and brainstorm ideas to contribute to the Merage community. "I believe that Merage is headed on such an amazing path, and I really loved being able to contribute to it in any way that I could," she says.
After graduation, Zhen will take a well-deserved break, spend time with family and travel. Then she will begin her career as an Emerging Leader at GEICO, where she will be able to put her management and leadership skills to good use.
As for incoming students, Zhen recommends, "Use this time to find things that you are passionate about. While it is important to pursue academic and professional achievements, personal development is just as significant. Join clubs and take classes that you are interested in, volunteer at different community events, or just spend time exploring the city with friends."
Dominique Braxton originally followed her PhD program advisor to the Merage School – interrupting her academic progress and forcing her restart two years in.
"It was difficult and time consuming because I had to start over, but camaraderie among the students here and the supportive environment of the department as a whole made it all worth it," she says. "The culture is incredibly warm and welcoming."
Then, a series of major life events placed extra demands are on Braxton's time, as she got married and had a child.
"Balancing school and a family was extremely challenging, but my advisors and my cohort were so encouraging it helped me stay strong," Braxton says. "Even faculty members who are not on my committee were there for me. It's really incredible to witness and be a part of."
Braxton is proud that she was able to achieve that balance, and has accepted a tenure track faculty position at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles starting this fall. The role will allow her to stay in academia – her long-term goal.
Braxton recommends that incoming students focus on more than just their studies.
"Breathe, work hard, pace yourself, take refresher breaks, ask for help, live your life, and have fun!" she says.