2019 Best & Brightest: Melanie Vezjak, Santa Clara University (Leavey)

Melanie Vezjak

Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business

“A lifelong student who is curious, hard-working, and enthusiastic.” 

Fun fact about yourself: I was born and raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia. However both of my parents are German. Growing up, my family would combine words in German, Spanish, and English when speaking with one another.

Hometown: Cochabamba, Bolivia

High School: German School Federico Froebel

Major: Finance

Minor: Sociology

Favorite Business Course: Corporate Financial Policy

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Member of the ACE Program, which is an invitation-only, highly competitive Leadership program for the top 25 students per class in the Leavey School of business.
  • I traveled to the Gambia in the summer of 2017 was part of the Global Fellows Program. The program recruits exceptional students to travel all over the world and participate in a 6-to-8 week summer internship with an NGO or business. Currently, I am the Teacher Assistant for the Program.
  • Member of the executive organizing team for TEDxSantaClaraUniversity, my position was Chief of Speaker Curation. I directed the application and interview process for potential student speakers, selecting 4 students from a pool of 50+ applicants.
  • Member of the Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity. Co-chair of Service in 2018.
  • Member of the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honors Society.
  • Involved with the micro-finance organization in 2017-2018, when I led the first microfinance loan internationally.
  • I have been part of the largest Social Justice organization on our campus called SCCAP since my first year in college. I started as a volunteer during my first year, then transitioned into becoming a Program Coordinator for the ESL program during my second year, taking on the Department Coordinator role for the Education and Mentoring during my junior year, and finally becoming the Office Manager my senior year.
  • Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative: Consulting project for a Mexican Taqueria to improve management, increase revenues, and enhance the overall appearance of the business over the course of 5 months.

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Summer 2018: Siemens Healthineers in Erlangen, Germany. My role was as an intern in a niche subdivision within the Finance department, called Operation Working Capital My biggest project was to run a feasibility study to analyze the economic efficiency of centralizing back-office functions.
  • Summer 2017: Starfish International in Banjul, the Gambia. My two main roles were teaching business, finance, and German classes, and leading a consulting project. The consulting project analyzed the small business center that serves as a platform to sell handmade products produced by the students of the school. My biggest responsibility was to perform market and business analysis to develop different projects that improved the store.
  • (Summer 2016) Wirtgen GmbH, Windhagen, Germany. My role was as an intern in the Marketing Department. My main responsibility was to translate technical brochures, articles, and PowerPoint presentations in German, English, and Spanish.

Where will you be working after graduation? I do not know where I will be working yet, but I hope to stay in the Bay Area.

What company do you admire most? I admire PayPal the most because the company’s mission and vision statement really resonates with my personal and professional values. PayPal believes that now is the time to democratize financial services, so that all citizens have the right to manage and move money. I am particularly moved with how PayPal exceptionally combines both of my passions: finance and sociology. This company uses its financial platforms to empower people and improve the financial health of those who are less privileged.

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Hersh Shefrin. I took Corporate Financial Policy with him last year and I was blown away with how patient, passionate, and wise he is. The subject of the class was definitely not easy, but he managed to create a fun environment for his students to be intrigued and enthusiastic about the material.

What did you enjoy most about your business school? I enjoyed the relationships I was allowed to build with professors in the business school. More than just educators, professors have taken the role of mentors and friends in my life; people who follow my successes and failures, advising me on every step I take. Professors Tanya Bunger, Jackie Posner, Long Le, Hersh Shefrin, Karla Callahan, Sean O’Keefe, to name a few, have played significant roles in my development as a professional business woman who has big aspirations and dreams.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? I learned that business can be applied in an infinite number of vocational fields. Most people think that business is a tool that is used only in the corporate world. However, my professors are living evidence that business is equally important in the non-profit world, the engineering world, the health and the education worlds, the political world, etc. Studying business has opened more doors for me in other fields than I had ever expected.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Find mentors who have experience in different business-related fields and ask them about their professional careers. Mentors tend to share indispensable knowledge about their own experiences and can be great role models for anyone thinking about starting a career in business. If the student is unsure about which specific business area to go into, hearing the perspectives of different mentors can be a huge advantage in the process.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Something that surprised me about majoring in business in Santa Clara was the accessibility we have to well-known companies and people who have important roles in them. Because Santa Clara is in Silicon Valley, our university constantly offers company tours, panels, networking events, and coffee chats with executives, recruiters, hiring managers, and even CEOs and CFOs. I am amazed by the resources that the Leavey School of Business offers to students so that we can learn from the professionals who are around us.

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…Sociology. I am passionate about understanding social problems and like to find creative solutions to these problems. If I was not studying finance, I would love to learn more about how societies function and why systems are structured and developed the way they are.”

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents influenced my decision to pursue a business degree in college; my professors motivated me to stay in the business school. I was inspired by the relationships that professors have with students; they hold us to high, professional standards. At the same time, they push us to flourish as compassionate and conscientious leaders. Successful businesses require leaders who are strong-minded and empathetic. The professors I have met in the Leavey School of Business are professionals who fully embody both characteristics.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am proud of my experience as a Global Fellow in the Gambia, Africa because I combined my passion for social justice and my finance skills to serve this community. For 8 weeks, I applied everything I learned at the Leavey School of Business to teach women between the ages of 12 and 18 on how to become financially independent, take on and pay off loans, and develop strategies to market their own hand-made products. I am proud of this fellowship because I saw the impact I had on the girls of this village; I realized that combining my business skills with my interests for social impact was not only possible but also something I am extremely passionate about.

Which classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire the most is Jon Tuttle. I admire him because of his loyalty, commitment, and desire to do good in the world. He is wise, selfless, and level-headed, and he has a strong moral compass. When Jon analyses difficult situations, he is able to remain serene and composed, looking at the problem from multiple perspectives and finding solutions that are inclusive and serve the greater good of the community.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I am most thankful to my mom and my dad. My mom has taught me to be kind, loving, compassionate, and empathetic. These values have served me the most when I face conflict or challenges with my peers or with myself. On the other hand, my dad has taught me to be focused, driven, and above all, hardworking. Without a combination of both, I would not have achieved any of the goals I planned in my life.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Learn how to communicate in Quechua, which is the native language of my hometown in Bolivia
  2. To teach, preferably in the college level.

What are your hobbies? I love to journal. I also really enjoy cooking, especially when I’m cooking with friends. I love to listen to music and dance, and I really like to read particularly novels.

What made Melanie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Melanie is an international student from Bolivia who speaks three languages fluently and exemplifies the idea of being a global citizen. At Santa Clara University, she has excelled in the classroom while making her mark on a number of social issues. She is passionate about engaging with the world and creating opportunities for other students to do the same. After being selected as a Global Fellow for Starfish International in the Gambia, she returned to work with the Global Fellows program to expand its reach with undergraduate students. Last year, she participated in an immersion to Rwanda to better understand the country’s food and poverty issues. Closer to home, Melanie has been active with the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP) for the last four years as a program leader. Melanie is a role model for other students who share her passion for making a positive impact on the community at home and abroad.”

Brenda Versteeg
Director, Professional Development and Social Justice
Undergraduate Business Programs Office
Leavey School of Business
Santa Clara University



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