Industrial Engineering undergraduate alumna earns work experience at USAA and an MBA
by David DeKunder
As a student at O’Connor High School in Helotes, Valeria Garza (B.S. ’18, M.B.A. ’21) visited a few local colleges before deciding St. Mary’s University was where she wanted to be.
It’s a decision, Garza said, which led to new opportunities in her life — professionally, academically and through community service.
“My journey at St. Mary’s has helped me to grow into a better person by nourishing the gifts God has given me and teaching me how to be present and serve my professional and personal communities,” she said.
Valeria Garza (B.S. ’18, M.B.A. ’21)
“My journey at St. Mary’s has helped me to grow into a better person by nourishing the gifts God has given me and teaching me how to be present and serve my professional and personal communities.”
Garza became a software engineer at USAA, where she mentors college students who are considering a career in software engineering. She said mentoring has been a rewarding experience for her, especially since she also interned at USAA while attending St. Mary’s. Garza started as an employee at the company in 2018 after graduating from St. Mary’s.
“I had a lot of very good mentors and a support system as an intern and as a new employee when I started five years ago at USAA,” Garza said. “I really wanted to help these interns feel that this was somewhere they could succeed and learn and be part of a community with an important mission.”
Being a software engineer wasn’t Garza’s first career choice. She chose to attend St. Mary’s because of the school’s Industrial Engineering program, through which she earned her bachelor’s degree.
The encouragement of two of her Industrial Engineering professors, Gopalakrishnan Easwaran, Ph.D., and Rafael Moras, Ph.D., prompted her to explore her career options beyond industrial engineering. Garza said both professors understood, like she did, that the skills she learned as an industrial engineer would prepare her for a career in information technology, if she chose to do that.
After working as a software engineer for one year, Garza decided to do postgraduate work at St. Mary’s through the MBA for Professionals program. Garza said she chose the program because it was a continuation of the valuable Marianist education she received as an undergraduate at St. Mary’s. Also, she said, the program provided flexible options to earn her MBA at her own pace, particularly during the pandemic when classes were moved to a virtual format.
“Our professors were very willing to accommodate student needs by providing options such as pre-recorded lectures, virtual office hours and flexible assignment deadlines,” Garza said. “Whether I was taking classes in-person or online, the professors were always generous in engaging students in discussion, encouraging peer collaboration, and helping students grow professionally through research projects and career advice.”
Valeria Garza (B.S. ’18, M.B.A. ’21)
“Whether I was taking classes in-person or online, the professors were always generous in engaging students in discussion, encouraging peer collaboration, and helping students grow professionally through research projects and career advice.”
Garza completed her MBA in 2021. She gave her insights and perspectives on what it is like to be a working professional to St. Mary’s graduate students at the Greehey School of Business as part of an alumni panel discussion during Research Week at the University in 2022.
In those talks, Garza emphasized how a group research project she helped conduct at St. Mary’s as an undergraduate in the Engineering Senior Design Project course helped her excel in her career. The focus of the project was how the San Antonio Food Bank could improve its processes in its day-to-day operations.
Ajaya Swain, Ph.D., the Associate Professor of Quantitative Management at St. Mary’s who oversees the Online MBA for Professionals, was one of Garza’s instructors in graduate school.
“To me, Valeria Garza is a remarkable individual who has excelled academically, demonstrated outstanding research capabilities, and exhibited a profound commitment to community service and education,” Swain said. “Her contributions serve as a source of inspiration to her peers and colleagues.”