Coming from a long line of successful and independent entrepreneurs, Justin Vergara ’12 has some big shoes to fill. And for the Vergara family, business is much more than cash flow and profit margins: It’s about building relationships and strengthening communities. Through rigorous coursework and experiential learning, Vergara has sharpened his instinct for business and his ties to the local community, and is prepared to establish a successful business of his own.
“Having strong family ties, I feel that it has been in my blood to be a businessman,” says Vergara. “Ever since I was little, I have always dreamed of owning my business with my cousin. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and practical application from what I’ve learned through my business courses. Being able to collaborate with my professors and peers is really valuable to me, and demonstrates my ability to understand the relevance of the course material.”
It’s through Arcadia University’s study abroad programs that had the opportunity to experience four different countries and economic structures. He participated in London Preview and studied abroad for a semester at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, helped to coordinate an Alternative Spring Break Program to Tijuana, Mexico, and studied sustainable development in Dominica.
Vergara says that experiencing diverse cultures and economies has impacted him tremendously. “I was able to gain different points of views and perspectives just by talking with the locals and embracing their culture,” he says. “I’ve always had a passion for traveling and meeting other people. Everybody has a story, and it’s interesting to hear what people have to say and what you can [learn] from them.”
While in Glenside, Vergara merged his business skills with his passion for service through Arcadia’s Community Service Office, where he had the opportunity to manage the budget book—a huge responsibility from which he gained insight into bookkeeping and event planning. He ensured that there were enough funds in each account to buy materials and marketing supplies for each event.
“Being involved with community service over the past four years was a stepping-stone to real life,” he says. “As a Business major, working through the [Community Service Office] helped prepare me for whatever the future has in store for me.
“After months of planning and preparing for an event, at the end of the day, watching the event run successfully and smoothly is a very rewarding experience. It’s an amazing feeling knowing what you are capable of. Year after year, you just want to step up your game to reach new goals and push yourself even further.”
Honing his leadership and teamwork skills, Vergara notes that one of the highlights of his undergraduate experience was organizing Arcadia’s annual Alternative Spring Break trip. He helped to lead a group of 40 Arcadia undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and staff to Tijuana, Mexico, to help rebuild houses and communities in an eye-opening, weeklong experience. The trip was coordinated in association with the Esperanza International Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for struggling families and communities in Mexico to become self-sufficient.
“Spending a week in a community to help rebuild houses and communities is an eye-opening experience and the memory serves as a constant reminder to never take anything I have for granted,” he says. “Sometimes, you forget what is outside of your own community, and being able to look back and remember the contributions that I made and the people that I’ve met along the way, puts a smile on my face. I know that I helped make a difference in someone else’s life through some way, shape, or form.”
In addition, Vergara notes that keeping active in the community is a great networking opportunity, which has led to many friendships. “Whether it’s through other volunteers or people that I have met along the way, everybody has a story, and it’s interesting to see what brought us all together. Arcadia’s faculty, administration as well as my fellow students have watched me grow throughout my academic college career and have supported me in so many ways, both inside and outside the office. We’re a family that shares a common bond through community service.”