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Diversity Characterizes School’s New Professional MBA Class; Women Make up Nearly Half

July 22, 2015
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Kendra Thomas
Debbie La Rocca
Dayana Morillo
Natalia Pendyukova
Victoria Escobar

A native of Colombia, Victoria Escobar, BBA ’08, is a human resources professional for Discovery Communications in Miami.  South Floridian Kendra Thomas has extensive experience in telecommunications, law and business. Venezuelans Debbie La Rocca and Dayana Morillo are technology and financial professionals, while Natalia Pendyukova is a Russian who launched an entrepreneurial real estate venture in South Florida.

All five women are taking the next step in their careers in the School’s Professional MBA Program, which allows students to customize their educational experience to meet their industry and career goals. Almost half of the 30 students in the program are women, even though nationwide, women account for just 40% of the applications for such MBA programs. Members of the class, which started July 16, also come from nine different countries including Argentina, the Bahamas, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua, Russia and Venezuela.

"One of the things that attracted me to the University of Miami is the international student body,” said Escobar, who has lived in South Africa, London and Singapore. "As an HR professional, I want to gain an understanding of the needs of our business units, and this program will help me develop my leadership, marketing and finance skills."

Like other students, La Rocca feels earning an MBA will be a major step forward in her professional career. "In order to be successful today, you have to invest in your academic education," she said. A native of Venezuela who studied interior design and website development, La Rocca now works in the information technology (IT) department for insurer UAIC.  "I'm looking forward to being part of such a diverse MBA program, because you get a richer experience with classmates from many different countries."

After earning degrees in telecommunications and law, Thomas worked for NBC, CBS and Comcast, focusing on areas like broadcast standards and practices, before launching her own consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale.  "I'm hoping the Professional MBA program will help boost my marketing and entrepreneurial skills," she said.

Pendyukova came to South Florida in 2011 after earning an accounting degree in Russia. She spent two years improving her language skills, while operating a real estate concierge service for Russian buyers and investors. "I chose the University of Miami because of its strong academic program and networking opportunities," she said.

Morillo has been working in the accounting sector for the past decade, and is now putting her financial skills to work at BNP Paribas, an international French bank with an agency office in Miami. "Being able to work full time while going to school was a major consideration for me," she said.  "I also like the face-to-face interactions with the faculty and students. An MBA from University gives you a solid foundation for a career that could take you anywhere in the world."

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