May 24, 2019 • By Jessie Yount
The Rosener Scholarship didn’t just enable Ann Marie Steffa, MBA ’16, to attend and graduate from the UCI Paul Merage School of Business.
In addition to generous financial support, the scholarship, named after Judy Rosener, a professor emerita at the Merage School, also gave Steffa a network of engaged business professionals and alumni.
It was a former Rosener Scholar, Julia Buchanan, MBA ’10, who referred her to exciting career opportunities at Niagara Bottling, where Steffa continues to advance her career along with Buchanan and several Merage School alumni. At Niagara, Steffa has developed her skills in a workplace that is people-oriented and flexible in nature.
“At Niagara Bottling, your role doesn’t define you –– you may be involved in projects that aren’t included in your job description,” Steffa said.
Working alongside fellow Merage alumni, such as Buchanan, is another perk.
“Merage gave me the opportunity to network with scholars, and now, I enjoy helping students and alumni connect with the right contacts, in addition to passing along resumes,” Buchanan said. “That is the benefit of not only getting to know those in the scholarship program, but also having a tight knit community at the school.”
After graduation, Steffa was more than willing to give back to the Merage School. As a member of the Dean’s Leadership Circle, she stays informed about new programs and events, and supports incoming and outgoing students.
“The Merage School offers students a transformative experience; its faculty and staff offer knowledge and tools to support students growth, personally and professionally. I wanted to stay connected, and I felt that the Dean’s Leadership Circle was the best way to stay in the loop,” Steffa said. “It’s great to hear about what the school is doing, especially with its global positioning as a business leader in digital innovation.”
Before the Merage School, Steffa attended undergrad at home in Bogota, Colombia, and thereafter, worked in the nonprofit sector for 5 years. She juggled many responsibilities at Fondo Acción, acting as an internal auditor, ecotourism manager and strategic partnerships manager, all with the aim to serve low-income communities.
“I created apprenticeships for local people with GHL Hotels, and managed a network of 22 nonprofits in Latin America and the Caribbean, where members could share best practices and connect with donors,” Steffa said.
When she decided it was time to take the next step in her professional development, the UC universities were already on her radar because her brother obtained a degree from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management a few years prior.
She was drawn to UCI because because of its close proximity to LAX, which would allow her to take a direct flight home, and its safe, calm and welcoming environment. The Merage School’s phenomenal outreach from students and staff, and the generous support of the Rosener Scholarship, truly sealed the deal.
“Out of all the schools that I connected with, I interacted the most with student ambassadors from the Merage School,” Steffa said. “They shared their experiences and answered my questions, and that gave me comfort that Merage was the right place for me.”
During her time at the Merage School, Steffa developed and strengthened her presentation and leadership skills as a student ambassador and the co-president of the Human Resources Club. She also learned how to give effective performance feedback to engage and motivate employees.
“The school was quick to extend the Rosener Scholarship in my admissions letter; it meant a lot that they were supporting my academic and professional goals,” Steffa said. “In Latin America you make a lot less relative to the U.S. dollar, so reducing the financial burden made the ‘yes’ so much easier for me.”