Ana Maya at the Arches.

Opus MBA Latinx Alumna Making an Impact

Across U.S. schools, students of Hispanic background make up less than 10% of MBA enrollment, with roughly 5% of Latinas getting an MBA. A recent graduate of the Part-time MBA program at Opus College of Business, Ana Maya '12, '21 MBA is proud to join the growing ranks of Latinx MBA recipients.

Walk us through your journey leading up to this exciting moment.

I immigrated to the United States from Mexico when I was nine years old, back in 1999. My dad's family is a big advocate for education. When they were younger, they were very poor in Mexico, but 11 of the 14 children managed to get their undergraduate degrees.

Whether or not to get a bachelor's degree is not even a question in my family. Higher education is expected. We are a family of proud Tommies. I am a double Tommie, and my sister-in-law and brother are also fellow Tommies. My dad even got a certificate in philosophy, so St. Thomas holds a special place in my heart.

I waited a few years before going back for my MBA. By then, I was married and working at U.S. Bank. I remember texting my husband and saying, 'You know what - I'm going to do this.' My family was very supportive of my decision. My husband has been too, from bringing me food at school to proofreading all of the papers I turned in. It has been an interesting ride for the past three and a half years!

What were some of your top highlights from the MBA program?

Networking within the St. Thomas community. There are so many of us Tommies working across the Twin Cities, including the CEO of U.S. Bank!

I learned a lot from my classmates in our class discussions and MBA projects. I heard a variety of opinions from students from many different industries and backgrounds - from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits.

The coursework was also incredibly impactful. I took an elective class, Inclusive Leadership for Diverse Organizations, with Professor Rama Hart. The course was a highlight in the MBA program, as I was able to be open about racism and sexism. This class was humbling and eye-opening.

Since there were many current events related to systemic racism when I took this course, we discussed this topic a lot. The hate crimes against various Asian populations and the murder of another African American male were all happening at the time. It was very cool to see the majority of the classroom open up and engage with each other. Many of us talked about how great it would be to see this become a required class for undergraduate students.

How has your MBA degree helped you in your job at U.S. Bank?

In the corporate world, I have received a lot of feedback from upper management working at U.S. Bank. They have said that my presentation skills are different than anybody else's, and they like how I approach problems. I have taken a little bit of everything from my MBA to prepare for my day-to-day job.

What's important to you outside of school and work?

I am a mentor for a program called CLUES' (Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio) Youth In Action (YA!). CLUES is Minnesota's largest Latino-led nonprofit organization, founded for and by Latinos. CLUES' YA! supports and guides Latinx high school students as they prepare for college and career. Minnesota ranks 49th in the nation for the percentage of Latino students graduating from high school, which was why I joined this mentoring program.

I was very privileged that my dad received a very good job when we moved to the United States. U.S. Bank hired him from Mexico and sponsored our family's visas to move here. Because of that, we have documents that I could go to school. I never lived in fear of that being taken away, but the Latino community suffers a lot from that fear.

The parents who are working two or three jobs to make ends meet do not have those resources. So, for me, it is important to give back and realize that my privilege can help inspire other people. I am also very involved in U.S. Bank's diversity strategies. I am one of the founders of the Nosotros Latinos Business Resource Group (BRG) and president of the U.S. Bank Twin Cities chapter. Our business resource group supports business lines across the enterprise by providing resources that facilitate cultural awareness, networking opportunities, education, leadership and personal/professional development.

Who or what inspires you?

My parents are my No. 1 inspiration. My mom and my dad were from very humble and poor backgrounds. My dad and his brothers worked their butts off to study and go to school. Once they got jobs, they started putting their siblings or kids in school so we would not suffer as much as they did. 

My mom had to drop out of school in sixth grade because her family had no money. She reminds me never to be afraid - even if I do not know how to do something. She moved to this country without knowing English and left her mom, dad, siblings, and friends so that my brother and I could have a better life.

My nephews are a big part of my inspiration as well. I want them to grow up in a world where they see their 'tia' (aunt) be a successful Mexicana. And to also know that they can be successful Mexican-American men in the United States and the world. In the end, I'm proud to be a Mexican immigrant. I'm proud to be a first-generation college student and master's graduate. Go Tommies!