The transition from high school to college can often be overwhelming. While it may be natural to feel like a fish out of water in a new environment, McIntire’s student organizations are working to help create an inclusive space for first- through fourth-years who come from historically marginalized backgrounds.
One such student group, the Latinx Student Network (LSN), was established to support and develop the prospects for current and prospective Latinx/Hispanic Commerce students.
“Our efforts are two-pronged,” explains current LSN Co-President Aslan Abrishami-Azar (McIntire ’23). “We want to create and build a community for students to build their own networks for social, academic, and professional reasons. And we want to execute on that effort by hosting a variety of events that naturally create those opportunities.”
Easing the Transition
Currently, LSN has approximately 70 members, and includes a mix of pre-Comm students and Comm majors. The group is organized around activities and support services that can help students at every stage of their educational and professional journeys. For example, LSN offers a mentorship program through which pre-Comm students are paired with a current Comm student who helps review their Comm application and provides advice about navigating the process.
“LSN has made my experience extremely easy at UVA,” says Leon Arceo (UVA ’25). “One thing I’ve often heard from my non-pre-Comm friends was that they were often confused about their major and what they needed to do to graduate. Because of LSN, I’ve visited McIntire often, and any questions I had were easily answered at in-person events or in the group chat; I was constantly being fed information. I am just very grateful I was never anxious or confused during my two years at UVA. To be honest, LSN made me feel like I was already admitted into the culture of McIntire.”
An Inclusive Organization
LSN sponsors other events and activities that include course advising, workshops, mock interviews, and networking. The org was awarded a grant from Big Four accounting firm EY in the fall of 2022, and plans to apply for it again in spring 2023. The hope is to be able to use the support to host events like informal dinners, where students can share more with each other about their backgrounds, families, experiences, and goals as future Latinx business leaders.
“We see students interacting with one another outside of the professional development activities, and it is rewarding to see how this community is building personally and socially,” says LSN Co-President Maria Paula Guzman (McIntire ’23). “I’m also proud of the relationships we’ve built and the events we’ve done with the Asian Student Network and the Black Commerce Student Network.”
Abrishami-Azar echoed that sentiment, saying, “It’s been endearing seeing the students of LSN, as well as the other student groups with all of their different backgrounds, come together. I went through a lot of difficulties as a first-generation student—there was a lot about the college process I didn’t know—and I am passionate about sharing what I learned with others who may be in a similar situation.”
Abrishami-Azar’s experience isn’t unique. According to nonprofit Excelencia in Education, Latinx students are much more likely to be first-generation students than other racial or ethnic groups, and they often lack the guidance and support necessary to be successful both in college and in the business world.
That makes the professional development support that much more critical to LSN’s mission and to the students it serves. LSN helps its members build their personal network both at UVA and after graduating from McIntire. That step is crucial when they enter the workforce, empowering them to be advocates for diversity, to help educate employers about Latinx employees, and hopefully, to serve as a resource for current students looking to pursue comparable professional paths.
“It’s important for the students to understand that they deserve to be in these places. They deserve to study at a prestigious university and to serve in a prestigious occupation. If LSN members are able to develop a new level of confidence, they will be able to have a positive effect in the different companies they go on to work for,” says Abrishami-Azar.
Building Business Connections
LSN’s networking opportunities are not exclusively internal to UVA and McIntire. A large component of the club’s activities revolves around hosting career fairs, panelist discussions with employers, recruitment events, and more—anything that will help students get in front of employers.
“LSN has positively impacted my UVA experience by giving me various opportunities to meet new people, whether they are UVA students, McIntire staff, or employers at companies I would like to learn more about,” says Hannah Ventura (UVA ’25), who credits the group with providing her with invaluable experiences that she believes will impact her career and future success. “As an LSN member, I have attended resume workshops, met employers, and connected with other Latinx students who have chosen similar career paths.”
Upcoming plans for this spring include a panel discussion with JPMorgan Chase, a career fair for marketing internships and full-time positions, and multiple social and networking events.
“Organizations like LSN are important because supporting diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it is also such a large component of the world we live in, both in our personal and professional lives,” says Guzman. “It’s important to make an intentional and conscious effort to see the best ways to serve communities that are made up of different cultures and backgrounds.”