2020 Best & Brightest: Waleria Duarte, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Foisie)

Waleria Duarte

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Foisie Business School

My perspective on life is shaped by being a part of diverse cultures and backgrounds.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have had the opportunity to travel to 27 countries on four continents including South America, North America, Europe, and Asia.

Hometown: Miami, FL

High School: Ronald W. Reagan Doral Senior High School

Major: Industrial Engineering

Favorite Business Course: Achieving Effective Operations (BUS 3020)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • WPI Dean’s List (Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019)
  • Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) Best Project
    • Awarded 1st place to best project amongst nine total projects in Bangkok, Thailand site.
  • Six Sigma Certification (April 2018)
  • Lean Green Belt Certification (November 2017)
  • ALANA Emerging Leader Award (2017)
    • African-American, LatinX, Asian-, and Native American (ALANA) Support Network
    • Awarded to a freshman member who has made a significant impact outside of the classroom and to campus life by demonstrating leadership qualities and commitment. The individual has demonstrated traits that are complementary to WPI’s vision: service, diversity, community, and excellence. The student exemplifies potentials to be a role model and effective student leader for the rest of his/her tenure at the university.
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
    • Leadership Roles: Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Community Outreach Chair
    • Community Work: Volunteered to mentor high school students in science and math courses.

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • General Electric (GE) Power, Schenectady, NY, Summer 2019
    • Early Identification and Development (EID) Program Intern
  • General Electric (GE) Power, Greenville, SC, Summer 2018
    • Early Identification and Development (EID) Program Intern
  • Doral Chamber of Commerce, Doral, FL, Summer 2017
    • Product Design and Marketing Intern
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Worcester, MA
    • Admissions Associate (2017 – present)
    • Teacher’s Assistant (TA) (Fall 2018, Fall 2019)
    • Resident Advisor (RA) (2017-2018)

Where will you be working after graduation?

  • Company: General Electric (GE) Aviation.
    • Title: Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP)

Who was your favorite professor and why? I have had a number of great professors during my time at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, but Professor Sharon Wulf has been one of my favorite professors due to her dedication, passion, and motivation towards her teaching career. I took two courses instructed by Professor Wulf, one during my freshman year and another during my senior year of college. In both opportunities, Professor Wulf engaged her students with an extremely dynamic curriculum. She was also able to establish a great rapport with all her students by going the extra mile. All these skills have made her one of the best professors I have had during my college experience.”

What did you enjoy most about your business school? Being part of the Foisie Business School was a great opportunity to develop myself both professionally and personally. I believe the objective of the Foisie Business School is to help students learn both the technical and social aspects of business. As an Industrial Engineer, having technical aspects will help in the improvement of a company. Without the right set of communication skills, this knowledge will be wasted. Additionally, all of this would have not been possible without help from the staff such as Mr. Wilkinson, Ms. Canning, Ms. Stokes, Professor Tower, and Professor Wulf. Foisie Business School has certainly prepared me for my career.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Throughout my time at Foisie Business School, I became familiarized with the jargon and learned techniques and tools used in the workforce. This became evident during my internships when I employed techniques such as 5S, six sigma, lean, team development stages, and manufacturing terms including throughput, value-added time, and number of escapes. Being able to apply this knowledge was an eye-opening experience because the theory I learned in class was used by an international company. The variety of topics and techniques I learned at the Foisie Business School provided me with a foundation for my career.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? People in business are the crossroads between many disciplines in the workforce. It is important to understand all the technical aspects of different fields so you can become a well-developed professional. Always be open-minded to work alongside people with different goals and opinions. These differences are crucial to a company’s success and the earlier we embrace them, the more successful we can become.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? When I started my studies at Foisie Business School, I anticipated spending most of my time in the classroom studying theory from textbooks and repeating it through homework. However, I was gladly surprised to find that knowledge extended beyond the classroom through certifications, internships, workshops, and other opportunities. Through my degree, I was able to earn certifications in Six Sigma and Lean, and even earned IBET Accreditation. Overall, I believe all of these opportunities have become a way of life for me.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Moving to a new country meant changing schools, learning a new language, and adapting to a new culture. This was one of the hardest experiences of my life. Even though it was challenging, I was able to adapt and succeed academically. I graduated in the top 5% of my high school with over 500 students. This accomplishment symbolizes my determination to succeed. The same determination and work ethic have stayed with me during my college career where I have maintained an excellent GPA, work and have held different leadership positions. These opportunities and my adaptability have helped me develop professional and interpersonal skills which I believe have been the achievement I am most proud of.

Which classmate do you most admire? Rosa R. Reynoso is a wonderful friend and student. She is a hard worker and always is striving for impeccable results. Academically, Rosa has done the research, extracurriculars, internships, and work all while maintaining an excellent GPA. Personally, she is one of the kindest people I have ever known and helps in every way she possibly can. Her commitment and positive energy are qualities I admire the most.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents have given me the foundation for my accomplishments and success. They moved to a new country in order to give me a better life and bigger opportunities even though they were leaving everything behind. They have supported me in every decision, every mistake, and every action I have ever taken. Through them, I have learned the values of humbleness, thankfulness, and dedication. Without them, I would not be the same person I am today.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The first item on my professional bucket list includes being a project manager for a manufacturing plant. I currently enjoy being the leader of many different projects for my course load. I need to plan, design, and monitor the group projects and make sure communication is held throughout the process. That is why I believe I would enjoy being a project manager as I will be able to put into practice my organizational and communication skills.

The second item will include creating my own company. I hope that after years of experience, I can learn different industry realms and focus on one of my interests. This will allow me to create my own company which could consist of consulting, real estate, or any other business area. As I enjoy being a leader, I also understand that creating my own company includes risks and sacrifices. However, I believe the positives outweigh the negatives in the creation and development of the company.

What are your hobbies? My hobbies include traveling, spending time with family and friends, and being up-to-date with my favorite shows.

What made Waleria such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Waleria Duarte first impressed me when she requested to complete her industrial engineering capstone work a year ahead of schedule. Juniors are not often allowed to do this, as the requisite course work is usually not complete, but Ms. Duarte had things under control. She and a team of three other students petitioned a local manufacturing company to redesign and rebalance an unruly custom furniture assembly line. Waleria’s bi-lingual and multi-cultural skills were key to gaining the trust and cooperation of the company’s front line workers. She and her team were able to pilot the recommended changes so that the workers and company management could gain swift confidence in a new way of doing things. Waleria’s good understanding of industrial engineering principles and the production workers’ resistance to change, coupled with emotional intelligence, and management’s need to meet tight schedules, resulted in a measurable increase in throughput and quality. Waleria’s leadership will be welcomed early in her career after graduation.”

Walter Towner PhD MBA 
Associate Teaching Professor
Director, WPI Center for Innovative Manufacturing Solutions


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