2020 First Generation MBAs: Martin Montes de Oca, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Martin Montes de Oca

W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University

Class: 2021

Hometown: Sedona, AZ

Fun Fact About Yourself: During my junior year in college I was able to study abroad in Spain and ate bull tail.

Undergraduate School and Major: Arizona State University, Sustainability B.S.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Accion, Micro-loan Officer

What did your parents do for a living? My mother is a housekeeper and my father is a business owner and landscaper.

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? My mom achieved a middle school education and my father achieved a high school education.

Which family member or mentor is your biggest inspiration or role model? Why? Growing up working weekends and holidays with my father, I realized how much he sacrificed and risked moving to the US in order to improve not only his life but the well-being of those around him. I wanted to continue the momentum and find my way of positively impacting my friends, family, and community.

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? One day, I was talking to a teacher in high school when he confronted me about some of the easier classes I was taking. He asked who was going to represent minorities and foment change if people like me didn’t step out of their comfort zone. From then on, I decided to start taking advanced courses and pushing myself harder.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? I didn’t know people who had pursued higher education, which made understanding the process of applying and finding resources challenging. I was worried that I would miss a step and not even have the opportunity to step through the class doors.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? The workload was a lot heavier than I was accustomed to. I also didn’t feel comfortable going to professors for help. I set barriers for myself.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher experience that you wish they would understand better? My family has always been supportive and understanding despite missing me.  It has been sometimes difficult to convey the pressure of being around very talented peers and feeling imposter syndrome.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree? After the Peace Corps, many of the jobs I wanted required an MBA. My career thus far had been focused on helping people in a very small scope and I wanted to switch my aim and work with a larger organization to see if I could further progress global sustainability and equity.

How did you choose your MBA program? I studied schools that had strong Supply Chain Management reputations because I was interested in project management. After looking through the options, I chose  ASU because it is highly-ranked, offered financial aid, and allowed me to stay close to family.

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? I felt as if I had spent my entire career learning soft skills and I wasn’t sure how I would fare learning hard skills at such a fast pace. I’ve had my share of stumbles, but I’ve learned more than I would’ve imagined.

How were you able to finance your MBA as a first-generation student? ASU offers a Coverdell Fellowship for some of its returned Peace Corps volunteers and it was able to cover my tuition. That, in addition to personal savings and loans, have helped me make my way through the first year.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? You’d be surprised what you can accomplish if you just try. Also, attempt to find a balance between planning strategically and enjoying the present (I’m still working on this one).

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? I would like to work with a larger organization that has Sustainability as a major goal. This will allow me to have the resources and reach to continue a career of investing in our future and working to progressively improve people’s quality of life.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.