After graduating from high school, Allen Garza wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life.
“I knew I wanted to work toward a career I was passionate about and enjoyed,” he said. “I also wanted to continue to expand my education, so I thought the best thing for me to do was to attend my local community college. This would allow me to explore my interests while also saving money. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”
At College of DuPage, Garza discovered opportunities and resources along with a quality education that provided a foundation for his career, which grew out of his Cultural Anthropology class with Professor Derrick Willis.
“I decided to take it because one of my friends was also signed up and because the class sounded very interesting,” he said. “This class is where I learned about the impact culture has on business and how ethnographic research can be applied in the business world. It truly sparked my interest in applied anthropology and business. I then decided to take more classes in this field and the rest is history.”
While studying at COD, Garza received the Jill Johnson Memorial Scholarship through the COD Foundation, for which he was thankful. He also had an opportunity to work with Willis and two classmates on a semester-long research project, “Navigating the Community College Library in the 21st Century,” that led to presenting at a national conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Overall, it was an amazing experience. My team and I got the chance to apply what we learned in class to a real-life situation,” he said. “This group project really helped me learn how to effectively conduct ethnographic research and understand the research process, which would be difficult to do by just reading a textbook. Traveling to Vancouver, it was a great feeling to present all the insights my team and I uncovered in our research to a large audience. Being able to get this experience is not common, especially at the community college level.”
Garza graduated with an Associate in Arts degree and a Business Anthropology certificate, which sparked his interest in the business world and, specifically, in marketing and consumer behavior. He transferred to DePaul University and earned a bachelor’s degree in Honors Marketing (IME).
He currently works as a product operations and market intelligence analyst at Billtrust, a financial technology company.
“Now that I’ve started my career, I am excited to see where it goes,” he said. “For now, I would like to continue to strengthen and broaden my analytical skills in order to become a better problem-solver and provide actionable insights.”
As for COD, Garza believes it is an affordable option to pursue, especially for students who are unsure of what to study and who want to explore their interests.
“COD has many valuable resources and amazing professors who will help you become successful in whatever career you choose to pursue.”