2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Rosie Garza, U.C.-Irvine (Merage)

Rosario (Rosie) Garza

The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine

“An outgoing, outspoken, driven, thoughtful and hard-working individual who thrives on helping others.”

Age: 45

Hometown: Laredo, Texas

Family Members: Mom (Romelia), Sisters (Romelia, Roxanna, & Rocio); Dad (Rafael) is deceased.

Fun fact about yourself: I am an extremely clumsy individual and is known for running into walls and objects that have been in the same location for years. Somehow, I am able to do trail running without falling.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Texas A&M International University; Bachelor’s, Business Administration

Where are you currently working? UNIFY Financial Credit Union; VP of Card Services & Payment Systems

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:

Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas (while living in San Antonio)

Social Representative, EMBA Class of 2020

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? For me, completing every course while gaining new knowledge to apply to the next quarter (courses) and meeting academic requirements provided a sense of accomplishment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After taking on my current role of VP of Card Services & Payment Systems in late 2017, I was able to implement significant processes and change outdated procedures, reducing fraud losses by 50% at the end of 2018. Given I had minimal knowledge of card fraud, I was still able to learn the dynamics of this fraud in a short period of time. This allowed me to prove to executive management my abilities in leading change in a department while financially saving the organization a significant amount of money. This has allowed me to have the flexibility to continue to build efficiencies and realign functions to create an additional reduction in operational costs.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? During the entire process, from the school visits, open house, to the interview, the school administration made me feel that this was about me – what I wanted to accomplish through the program – and not necessarily about the school meeting the enrollment numbers. The conversations centered around my objectives.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The in-depth discussions during class and study sessions with my peers and gleaning enough of it to be able to apply and applying that knowledge at work. In short, that bonding time with peers allowed me to be better professionally.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? This program has taught me to approach projects through a strategic lens. Prior to joining the program, my tendency was to take a project at face value and complete it just so that I could check it off as done. Now, I am able to take strategic actions to cope with fundamental changes impacting my project and its financial impact to the organization.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? I do not have a family of my own here in California, but rather a close-knit group of friends who are like family. I needed to quickly determine a way in which I was able to make time for them, while meeting the demands of the course work that was necessary prior to class weekends. Additionally, significant projects at work were requiring weekend work to ensure meeting established timelines. In order to spend time with my closest friends – while meeting all other demands – I developed a schedule, broken down to the hour, that allowed me to spend the time with friends as I was prior to the program starting. This worked extremely well and even allowed me to get mental breaks that were much needed.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Find a school in which you feel that your objectives and career goals are a priority and a focus for the administration and faculty.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is that if you have been out of school for many years, that starting a new program, especially an executive MBA, was not possible. From my experience, that was not the case and as long as you remain focus and plan accordingly, you are able to complete the workload as necessary.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not being more involved in school events or being more actively engaged as a class representative from the beginning to help the program as much as I could have.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Karl Tokita. Throughout the program, Karl demonstrated a genuine care and concern for other students, supporting others by researching issues and hosting potential students while still managing his own workload and business. Above all, Karl had a contagious smile that made other students gravitate to seek his support at any time.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I knew I wanted to go to business school when I attended the open house at UCI and left intrigued by the discussions and presentations from the guest professors.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To obtain a C-title position in which I can apply my operations, customer service, and knowledge earned from the EMBA program.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who consistently found a way to find solutions to problems, that supported them, and who found a way to make them laugh easily.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Support and mentor through Girls on the Run International

Travel to the other six Wonders of the World I’ve yet to see

What made Rosie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

What made Rosie Garza such an invaluable addition to the EMBA Class of 2020?

The words that come to mind go beyond passionate, empathy, hard-working, organized, committed, and thoughtful. Rosie is the emerging leader that has shown she understands how to navigate the hyper-connected, hyper contingent, and fast whitewater world that is emerging in front of us. Most importantly, she is an entrepreneurial learner. A person who approaches the world asking what’s beyond possible. She sees for understanding thereby allowing her to integrate often opposing qualities of emotion and reason and curiosity and certainty into her approach to academic challenges. In a world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity is the norm, Rosie brought the ability to treat every challenge in the classroom as a new opportunity to grow and learn. In this process, she set a standard of performance that acted as a beacon to the class. This was coupled with her strong desire to help others and to organize the EMBA class of 2020 into a true learning community.

Beyond learning, there is a strong element of leadership. Rosie unselfishly took on the role of organizer for class functions in order to help build group cohesiveness and spirit that is serving the class well during this stressful period in the spring of 2020. All this while working full time in a demanding job requiring her to balance the “triple bottom line” of work, home, and school life.

This unique combination of capabilities and behaviors is well recognized by the class and faculty and is why I am pleased to Recommend Rosie for Best & Brightest Executive MBA Graduates.”

Leonard Lane
Senior Lecturer, Strategy
Paul Merage School of Business
University of California, Irvine


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