May 20, 2020 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business
The class of 2020 at The UCI Paul Merage School of Business is graduating during challenging times. Spring quarter and commencement ceremonies went virtual and students are facing the toughest job market since the 2008 crisis. Despite these challenges, many Merage students are celebrating their years of study and camaraderie at the Merage School through philanthropy. There are many avenues of giving back to the School—whether you are a student, alumni or a supportive member of the community.
Nicole Luszczak Business Administration ’20, who played on the UCI Women’s Volleyball Team, originally planned on pursuing journalism and writing after college.
“When I started taking classes at the Merage School, I learned that there are a lot more opportunities to write meaningfully in the business world than I thought possible,” she said. “The business world is my world now.”
Luszczak honed her leadership skills through her time in the Leadership Experience and Development for Success (LEADS) program. LEADS offers a select group of Merage School undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in professional development, mentoring workshops and networking events with Merage School alumni and community leaders.
“LEADS gave me the confidence to reach out to a marketing agency I had dreamed of working for. The INK Agency in Laguna Beach ended up creating a brand strategy position for me— simply because they didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to work together.”
These unique experiences inspired her to participate in the Give Your Grad Year fundraising initiative, where alumni can choose to give a monthly, quarterly or yearly gift corresponding to their grad year. Luszczak, as a 2020 graduate, committed to an annual gift of $20.20. Give your Grad year is an impactful way to give—if just half of Merage School alumni participated in the program, the School would raise over $7 million for student scholarships.
Luszczak said: “Our favorite saying in LEADS is, ‘Give early, give often, expect nothing in return,’ and that is a philosophy I have tried hard to internalize. I have already been given so much from this community, and it brings me great joy to know that I can help others experience the incredible resources and relationships that I have. No matter how much I give, it will never be enough to repay the sense of character, kindness and passion that the School has helped instill in me. My gratitude is great.”
Before moving back home to El Centro, CA for Spring Quarter, Nick Gonzales Business Administration ’20, enjoyed writing raps in his notebook in between his marketing classes at the Merage School.
Gonzales, a first-generation student at the Merage School, is channeling his creativity and passion for music in his pursuit of a career in entertainment.
“I’m proud to be a first-generation business student and a Latino student,” said Gonzales. “Times are challenging right now, but I’m not going to let anything stop me. I received a top-notch education at the Merage School, and I’m going to keep networking and applying as jobs open up.”
Gonzales co-founded the Business Careers in Entertainment Club in the Spring of 2018, which has hosted speakers from Disney, Hulu, ESPN, Sony Pictures and Universal Music Group.
His experiences are what inspire him to Give his Grad Year.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of gifts for so long, that giving back is a dream,” said Gonzales. “I don’t want anyone to have to worry about paying for the Merage School and I want as many people as possible to experience similar memories, connections and lessons.”
In 2017, Gayatri Karthy MBA ’20 was working as a cybersecurity analyst in India. After studying in Saudia Arabia and the United States, she enjoyed her chosen career path but knew she could bring more to the table.
“I felt my strengths and passion were lying dormant and were overshadowed by the technical responsibilities of my job,” Karthy explained. “Marketing allows me to showcase my creative side and combine it with my love for data and analytics.”
Her skills were put to the test last Spring when her team won the Targus Case Competition on Women’s Day 2019.
After graduation, Karthy aims to stay in the cybersecurity industry: “The field brings me a sense of satisfaction and purpose while making me feel like I’m making a difference in the world.”
To stay connected to the Merage School, she wanted to take on a leadership role in the alumni community. After her successful career at Merage, Karthy was selected to join the Dean’s Leadership Circle (DLC). Under the vision of the Dean, the DLC plays a crucial role in elevating the School through leadership, mentorship and community impact.
“The close-knit network at the School has already helped me forge powerful relationships,” said Karthy. “I knew I wanted to both give back to the Merage School and continue to be a part of the network.”