Gloria Avalos, a first-generation student, always had a passion for business. Born and raised in Mexico, she knew higher education was always a part of her bigger plan. Despite having a passion for business, she studied nutrition at a Mexican university because the school didn’t offer a formal business degree.
Looking back at where she started her journey, Avalos is proud to think of her CU Denver Business School diploma and how it helped her land her dream job working at American Express as a Marketing Analyst in Phoenix, Arizona.
Stepping out of her comfort zone
Initially, her husband encouraged her to switch majors and pursue her true passion for business at the University of Colorado Denver. Convinced by the university’s reputation, she jumped headfirst into a new life here in Denver at the young age of 21.
Knowing less than a handful of people in the United States, Avalos had to challenge herself more than most incoming undergraduate students. Avalos admits that when she started here at CU Denver, she was shy, which is not surprising considering how much she was dealing with at the time. She was in a new country, at a new school, talking in a new language, and pursuing a new major. Nothing was familiar.
With one year of basic core classes under her belt, Avalos stepped on campus for the first time, unaware that it would be the start of her life-changing journey.
Taking advantage of all CU Denver has to offer
As a BSBA student majoring in Marketing with a specialization in Information Systems, she made a pact with herself to make connections starting on day one. The first place she looked was in the classroom.
Not knowing whether or not she would be able to succeed with limited English, Avalos found a mentor in Bekah Wright, her English Composition professor. Wright helped Avalos perfect her English by providing her with extra resources and always being there in times of crisis.
“From the moment I started attending CU Denver, everyone was incredibly helpful despite my limited English,” Avalos said.
She credits the diversity of the professors on campus for helping her feel at home. “I was very happy to have a class with an incredible marketing professor that was also bilingual in Spanish like myself. Dr. Francisco J. Conejo and I would chat in Spanish about the marketing industry and he would give me great advice about my future. I was so happy to see how diverse my CU Denver professors were.”
“I was so happy to see how diverse my CU Denver professors were.” – Gloria Avalos
PAL specifically played a big part for Avalos when it came to meeting new friends and fitting in. PAL is a leadership program where first-year students are matched with undergraduate student leaders. As one of those leaders, Avalos paid it forward by mentoring new CU Denver students. Funny enough, she looks back on this experience as one of the most important in building her networking abilities.
With each new experience, Avalos’s confidence grew to where she was tackling the bigger challenges ahead.
“From the moment I started attending CU Denver, everyone was incredibly helpful despite my limited English.” – Gloria Avalos
The flexibility to create a degree for her future
Like many CU Denver students, a twelve-hour day for Avalos was not unusual. She committed herself full-time to taking advantage of all the opportunities CU Denver afforded her, including a part-time research assistant position for one of her marketing professors.
Avalos worked for Summer Cao, assistant professor of marketing, as her Research Assistant during her senior year. Through that job, she gained hands-on data management experience. Avalos credits that job for helping her application stand out in a sea of applications. During and after interviews, employers told her that those skills were the exact ones they were looking for in a new hire.
Another valuable experience was an Enterprise Data and Content Management course taught by Zhiping Walter, associate professor of information systems. It was that class that inspired Avalos to fully declare her information systems specialization and spark an entirely new career direction. Talking to an advisor and taking another information systems course solidified her desire to take her marketing major to a new level.
By combing marketing and information systems she was setting herself apart from other applicants. “More and more data is available to us as professionals, and the more tools we have to make smarter marketing decisions, the better,” she said. Avalos wanted to be at the forefront of that trend.
She credits CU Denver for giving her the opportunity to create her own path, even if it raises some eyebrows along the way. “CU Denver courses gave me a strong base. Every time I interviewed for a job, employers were intrigued by my combinationof marketing and information systems. I saw a lot of raised eyebrows at my interviews,” she joked.
“CU Denver courses gave me a strong base. Every time I interviewed for a job, employers were intrigued by my combination of marketing and information systems. I saw a lot of raised eyebrows at my interviews.” – Gloria Avalos
All of Avalos’s contributions came together when she received the Outstanding Student Candidate award upon graduation. This award is given to undergraduate students who demonstrate academic and valuable contributions every year by the Business School. After being nominated, she wrote an essay about how CU Denver changed her life.
Avalos expanded, “I was so honored to receive the Outstanding Student award. I used to think I would be in college forever, but it went by so fast. I’m really glad I took the initiative to get involved. It made a difference on my resume, and I had a lot more fun!”
“Choose where you want to live first”
Avalos was inspired by something that Rohan Christie-David, Dean of the CU Denver Business School, once told her: “Choose where you want to live first and then work there. Don’t let work choose where you live.”
That thought resonated with her. She chose Phoenix as her city of choice and moved out there shortly after graduation. After applying to several jobs, she was fielding a number of job offers. It didn’t take long before she settled for her dream job as a Market Analyst for American Express, a Fortune 100 company. Now her daily responsibilities include optimizing and innovating their user interface and user experience platform.
“I’m so excited to learn from experts in the industry while learning many different software on web analytics,” she mused. “I am truly honored to build my career off of the incredible knowledge and work experienced I obtained at CU Denver.”
Looking back Avalos is proud of how far she’s come. “Being an analyst was always my dream, and I am honored and happy that CU Denver has given me the knowledge and opportunities to have developed my skillset to pursue my dream job in such a competitive field.”
CU Denver as her forever family
Avalos has no regrets looking back on her experiences here. She took the initiative and it led her down a path she couldn’t have known the first day she stepped on this campus. To all students, she recommends “reaching out to your professors. Even if you don’t have a question about your class, they have a vast amount of knowledge to share.”
Avalos thanks the faculty and staff at CU Denver for being incredible mentors. She said, “Mentors really make a difference. For me, I couldn’t ask my parents for advice as a first-generation student. I hardly knew anybody in the United States. CU Denver really filled that void with resources, professors, and friends.”
“For me, I couldn’t ask my parents for advice as a first-generation student. I hardly knew anybody in the United States. CU Denver really filled that void with resources, professors, and friends.” – Gloria Avalos
Today, Avalos may have left the college life behind, but she never stopped learning. She continues to push herself by getting involved in organizations like Tech Ladies in Phoenix to continue growing her professional self. Avalos also has future dreams to continue her education more formally by pursuing a master’s degree in business analytics.
No matter what is next for her, Avalos says she is “proud to hold the CU Denver name in California, Denver, Phoenix, or wherever I go.”