October 30, 2023 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business
Five students from the Merage School traveled to Miami in late September for the 2023 L’Attitude Conference, the largest business event in the U.S. focusing exclusively on the New Mainstream Economy.
The students, sponsored by L’Attitude, heard from top executives and business leaders about the rising Latino influence on business, media, politics, science, and technology.
Dean Ian O. Williamson was a featured speaker at the event along with Priscilla Almodovar, CEO of Fannie Mae, Fidel Vargas, CEO of Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Jorge Zamanillo, Founding Director of Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino, and Brian Moynihan, Chair and CEO of Bank of America, among many other notable speakers.
“It was very kind of L’Attitude to sponsor our students so they could gain this valuable experience,” Dean Williamson said. “The conference plays a critical role in bringing awareness to the incredible contributions of the U.S. Latino community and it is important for the future business leaders at the Merage School to hear from influential executives and make powerful connections.”
For the undergraduates, it was an eye-opening experience to amidst so many influential members of their cultural community. The students felt a sense of belonging and shared experience as they gained invaluable insight into the possibilities that lie ahead of them.
Ana Calvillo, a third-year student, said it was inspiring to be around successful Latinos from so many diverse backgrounds, including Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, and many other Latin American countries.
“It was beautiful to be immersed in the culture,” Calvillo said. “I’ve never been in an environment like that. It felt like home. There were many connections made just on the basis of our shared culture.”
Fourth year student Kimberly Bravo was drawn to the event because of its organizer Gary Acosta, the co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals and 2022 Merage School commencement speaker. Bravo felt a kinship and drew inspiration from Acosta who grew up near her home in South Central L.A. It was the first professional event she ever attended where she truly felt the presence of her culture, she said.
“Because of the shared experience with Mr. Acosta and others at the conference, I really wanted to learn all I could from their experiences and the challenges they faced,” Bravo said. “I felt like their stories were applicable to me and that is really motivating because they accomplished great things.”
Leadership and Perseverance
The L’Attitude conference was a treasure trove of insights. Students gleaned wisdom on leadership and professional growth, trends in artificial intelligence, the future of energy and the nuances of Latino representation in business.
Third-year student Jackub Galindo said he enjoyed a speech from former NBA star Manu Ginóbili who spoke about the importance of discipline and routine in achieving success. Galindo, who aims to work in venture capital or private equity once he graduates, said these insights were empowering and he now feels more informed about the business world and the impact of Latino underrepresentation.
“I think learning about topics like the Latino impact on the economy and the use of generative artificial intelligence in business gives me a competitive advantage because I have insider knowledge about the business world moving forward,” Galindo said. “I also learned about different tactics in leveraging your cultural knowledge and experiences to get to influential positions in an organization.”Calvillo found the information on AI and cryptocurrency particularly compelling and useful. She learned that blockchain technology has eliminated a lot of third-party and “middleman” businesses, which has hurt nonprofits. Since Calvillo works part-time for a nonprofit, she said she will use this information to improve the organization.
Calvillo also found the expert guidance on leadership development to be particularly motivating.
“A lot of what I learned was surrounding leadership, such as maintaining integrity and a strong work ethic,” Calvillo said. “They combined this with the current trends within the Latino community and what obstacles we face as a community. They provided guidance on how to overcome these obstacles to become a leader in a company or grow your own business.”
With clear career goals ahead of them, each of the students who attended the event were inspired to internalize the guidance they received and use it to accomplish their objectives.
Calvillo was particularly encouraged by a speech from Nina Vaca—Founder, Chair and CEO of Pinnacle Group, a global workforce solutions company. Calvillo, who aims to eventually start her own business, found inspiration in Vaca’s story about the challenges she faced as a woman while growing her business.
“I really took to heart what she said about how important it is to feed your mind and your body because they work together,” Calvillo said. “So, as we feed our minds and continue learning, it’s important to challenge yourself mentally and physically. I’m also very interested in entrepreneurship, so this inspired me to really think about how I am challenging myself to improve.”
The overarching message for the conference—to continue paving the way for future generations of the Latino population in the U.S.—was particularly motivating for the students.“A lot of these great business leaders that spoke to us didn’t have anyone to look up to, but they’re creating these paths for us as future business leaders in the Latino community,” Bravo said. “So, I think it’s really important for us to continue paving the way for the next generation as well.”