Jesse N. Pizarro
Hometown: Levittown, New York
Fun Fact About Yourself: I rescued a seven-year-old retired racing greyhound named Axel.
Undergraduate School and Major: I attended Purdue University and I majored in accounting and management.
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Before starting my MBA, I worked for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) as an accountant. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at Cigna as a Financial Development Program (FDP) summer associate.
What did your parents do for a living? My mother is an administrative assistant at a mental health agency and my father is a custodian at a local middle school.
What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? Both of my parents completed high school education.
Which family member or mentor is your biggest inspiration or role model? Why? My biggest role model is my mother, because she went from cleaning houses and working in a factory, to learning English and broadening her professional opportunities to find a more stable job. Growing up, she and I were both learning English simultaneously and we helped each other improve our skills. She taught me that although I might experience stressful circumstances, I can control my efforts and ambition to improve my situation.
What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? I saw both my parents working multiple full-time jobs ever since I could remember. I saw the countless hours they worked and I didn’t want to let their efforts go to waste. Being a first-generation student means that in most situations, your parents will never have a chance to earn a college degree. However, being a first-generation student and earning a degree had a greater significance because I attained a college degree for myself and my parents, who created an opportunity for me through their sacrifice.
What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? My biggest worry was landing a job in the profession I was aspiring to enter. I compared myself to my peers, who were not first-generation, who already had strong networks established through their families or friends. I was concerned about navigating it all by myself and feeling like I was at a disadvantage. I believed that if I didn’t know the right people, I would be unable to get a job.
What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? Besides the coursework and being so far from my family, the biggest challenge was financing my undergraduate program. In my sophomore year, I struggled to get a loan to cover my tuition. I had asked more than 15 family members to cosign, and the lender denied all of them. At the time, I was unaware of other providers, so I went with the only one I knew. Finally, through some luck, I was able to get approved with a family friend a week before classes started. From there, I spent the rest of the time trying to obtain more scholarships to stay in school and make it another year.
What didn’t your family understand about the higher education experience that you wish they would understand better? It was not knowing all options to finance school. They wished they had been educated on financial literacy as it pertains to a college education. This put a lot of stress onto me on trying to find a way to get through school. Had they understood this a bit better, I would have been able to focus more on the academics alone and not how I was going to make it through another semester.
What led you to pursue an MBA degree? In my undergraduate career, I was a part of the Business Opportunity Program, which focuses on helping students interested in pursuing business. Darren Henry, director of the Business Opportunity Program, was my biggest supporter. He was a major advocate for me to pursue my MBA. He helped me understand the value an MBA could bring to my community and how I could continue expanding my professional and educational horizons.
How did you choose your MBA program? Culture. When visiting Kelley, I was welcomed like I was family. The overall class size was small enough for me to build good relationships. I believed I could learn a lot from my peers and become a leader in this community to make a positive impact.
What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? Like in undergrad, financing my MBA was my biggest worry. I had struggled so much during my undergraduate career to obtain scholarships to pay for tuition. I was worried that I was going to run into a similar problem during graduate school.
How were you able to finance your MBA as a first-generation student? Through the Consortium, thanks to my mentor. Darren Henry, director of Business Opportunity Program, told me that Consortium existed and saw what I was doing to help the Latinx community. He recommended that I apply to the program as it was a match with their missions.
What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? Utilize support services on campus. Although you are first-generation and may not have vast networks, there are people at your institutions who want to see you succeed and will help you along the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What do you plan to pursue after graduation? After graduation, I plan to work in the healthcare industry and find ways to help break stigmas within the Latinx community about healthcare. Additionally, I will find a way to help other first-generation students and professionals from underrepresented backgrounds have access and tools to make higher education possible for them.