Connecting with compliance
by Samantha Mendoza
Many consider themselves lifelong learners, but few have committed themselves to the pursuit of education quite like St. Mary’s University student Priya Bhakta (B.B.A. ’18, M.B.A. ’19).
Bhakta is pursuing her Master of Jurisprudence with a Concentration in Compliance, Business Law and Risk — her third degree at St. Mary’s. By the time she completes the program in May, she will have spent more than 10 years as a St. Mary’s Rattler.
“The University is like a second home for me,” Bhakta said. “The key Marianist pillars have made me who I am today.”
Born and raised in San Antonio, Bhakta joined the St. Mary’s community with the goal of pursuing a career in Business Law after being inspired by her father. A lawyer in his home country of India, he was unable to practice law when he moved to the U.S. and, ultimately, became an entrepreneur.
Having her dad as a role model, Bhakta said she always valued a legal education and “given his shift to entrepreneurship, I’ve always been interested in the legal component of business.”
Bhakta completed a bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 2018. Little did she know India would soon play another role in shaping her professional trajectory.
Through the Greehey School of Business, she joined a Spring Break trip to Bangalore, India, during her junior year, where she and other entrepreneurial-minded St. Mary’s students stayed with Marianists and developed a three-day start-up program promoting financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills for adult students at a vocational training center.
“That trip solidified my decision to pursue my MBA,” Bhakta said.
Bhakta completed her MBA in 2019 and became an auditor with USAA. But her dream of learning more about the law was never far from her mind. After receiving guidance and mentorship from professors of the St. Mary’s School of Law, Bhakta determined that the M.Jur. program was the best fit for her personal and professional goals.
“What sets this M.Jur. Program apart from what’s offered at other universities is the community, the flexibility for working professionals, and the fact that it allows you to sit for the Compliance Certification Board exam to become a certified compliance risk officer,” she said.
Priya Bhakta (B.B.A. ’18, M.B.A. ’19)
Being welcomed into this Marianist community has been life-changing.
Typically, professionals need to have completed about 500 hours of work in a compliance officer role in order to qualify for the exam.
“As an independent auditor, I would have to transition into a compliance role, versus through this degree, I’m able to automatically sit for that exam without fulfilling those working requirements,” Bhakta said. “That’s a key factor.”
In addition to balancing the demands of the program with her full-time job, Bhakta is a Teaching Assistant for Assistant Dean for Graduate Law Programs Shannon Sevier (J.D. ’07, M.P.A. ’21) in her Fundamental Law course.
“Ms. Bhakta consistently contributes to the growth and success of her peers,” Sevier said. “Her outstanding mentoring and leadership abilities make her a shining example of what a dedicated student leader and professional should aspire to be. She embodies the qualities of a lifelong learner.”
“Being welcomed into this Marianist community has been life-changing,” Bhakta said. “It makes you feel like you’re at home.”