Students felt empowered to make their impact in the business world after learning first-hand from the CEOs of international corporations, and world-famous entrepreneurs like Zoe Saldana, about how Latinos are finding success and becoming enormous movers in the U.S. and global economy.
Several Whittier students attended the star-studded L’attitude conference in San Diego earlier this month, which featured a world-class slate of guest speakers. The conference, focused on business, media, and leadership, attracted everyone from entrepreneurial celebrities to powerful figures in business and government, including Saldana, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod), Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball, former United States Secretary of Transportation Federico Peña, and the CEOs of Uber, Wells Fargo, and United Airlines, to name only a few.
Sessions led by these big industry names motivated and enlightened the students, who enjoyed hearing how Latino entrepreneurs like Saldana and Ball found and share their success.
They were also impressed and empowered by hearing CEOs describe the enormous position Latinos share in the U.S. economy.
By 2020, Latinos will make up 74 percent of the growth in new workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In just 2015, Latinos in the U.S. were responsible for $2.13 trillion in gross domestic product—larger than the GDPs of Brazil, Canada, and India, according to a study by Latino Donors Collaborative, a nonpartisan association of Latino business, political and academic leaders. In other words, if U.S. Latinos were a country, they would be the seventh biggest economy in the world.
Hearing that statistic blew Jesus Delgado’s ’19 mind. He returned to Whittier reinvigorated to pursue his goal of helping families start their own businesses.
Students also volunteered some time helping with the conference check-in, which granted them both free admission and an opportunity to introduce themselves to many of the approximately 1,500 professionals in attendance. Students like Daisy Zavala ’19, who volunteered in a VIP area, had a chance to network with entrepreneurs and executives, and the interactions left her feeling inspired and empowered to make her way in the business world after she graduates.
“I thought, wow, this is who I want to be, this is what I want to do and follow,” Zavala said.
Michael Ash ’21 felt a similar combination of affirmation after meeting so many successful Latinos in business.
“It helps to reaffirm that I could do the same thing,” Ash said. “Just meeting these people was really cool. They’re just like me. They came from where I came from.”
Associate Professor Dan Duran, chair of the business administration department, described the conference as one of the richest experiences that his students have had during his tenure. He hopes L’Attitude becomes a recurring excursion for Whittier students, and they share his ambition.
“This convention was something really special,” said Christian Renteria ’21. “In the end, it really paid off. We got to really meet with a ton of Fortune 500 companies, a ton of CEOs, real estate agents, bankers. I think there’s no greater value than experience. I think for me, that’s something that I can always carry with me. I’m just very grateful for it. I’m glad the school was able to give me the opportunity, as well.”
In the meantime, the students are sharing their insights from the conference with their peers. The conference kindled a fire within Ezequiel Hernandez ’20; he talks about the experience whenever he’s given a chance.
They’re also sharing what they learned with the College’s administration. The students are preparing an executive summary of the conference’s themes, takeaways, its impact on them, and what that could all mean for the College’s future for President Linda Oubré, the Board of Trustees, and senior staff.
L’Attitude was co-founded by Sol Trujillo L.H.D. ’17, a global media-communications and technology executive, who has visited Duran’s business classes and shared his insights as the 2017 Commencement honored speaker.
Over the summer, 20 students gained early professional face time by working with Trujillo and the conference’s other co-founder—Gary Acosta, founder and CEO of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals—to put together and execute an outreach plan to tell other colleges about the conference. As the sole college class working on L’Attitude’s collegiate outreach, they worked together to identify an extensive list of professors from Santa Barbara to San Diego whose academic interests aligned with the conference and invited them and their classes to attend. They also reached out to Latino organizations through social media to raise awareness of L’Attitude.
“It was a cool experience with several Skype planning and update meetings that often included our students with Sol Trujillo and others,” Duran said.