Pay it Forward

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

By Sue Wilson

How much difference can one person make? Quite a bit, especially if that person is Luis Moreno, who graduated from the Carlson School’s Full-Time MBA program with a strategic management and marketing emphasis in 2001. “Giving back has been a positive experience for me,” says Moreno, a marketing manager with Land O’Lakes Inc. “There is much more that you can do beyond writing a check. Some students may struggle to make connections. The value of your time and your willingness to connect with them is priceless.”

A decade ago, Moreno received a scholarship and left Venezuela to attend the Carlson School. He faced a range of issues when he arrived, including learning the local culture and
customs and how to capitalize on opportunities at the University and with the local business community. “If you are a Full-Time MBA student, you are making plans to interview for internships during the first semester of your first year,” he says. “You need to quickly find out about local employers and be prepared for interviews. Small talk can be a challenge, and it helps to be familiar with hometown details like the names of local sports teams and attractions.”

To help international students, Moreno led The Globe, an international networking group, while he was a student. Today he has created similar groups. He cofounded EcoMondo while working at Ecolab and recently created and leads a new group called the Twin Cities Business Peer Network that includes more than 70 business peers from such companies as Target, 3M, Ecolab, General Mills, Land O’ Lakes, Best Buy, UnitedHealthcare, and Northwest Airlines. “I invite talented peers to have lunch and I include Carlson MBA students,” he says. “The students can make connections and increase their comfort in professional networking situations. They inspire each other and gain confidence.”

Over the years, Moreno has also extended a welcome to many Carlson School international students by offering advice and inviting them to his home for group cookouts.

Fabio Cossini, who graduated from the Full-Time MBA program in 2002, met Moreno during International Students Week (held a week before the beginning of classes) when Moreno spoke about his Carlson School experiences. “He told us, ‘I am a warrior and I fight every single day,’” Cossini says. “He said those words with such passion that I was touched. His work at The Globe inspired me to serve as its director of communications.”

Pura Mendez, who will graduate in May 2010 from the Full-Time MBA program, joined other international students at Moreno’s home this summer. “Everything Luis told us that day has been useful, especially his advice on managing time constraints, maintaining balance between studying and other community activities, and engaging in the school’s initiatives. I also thank him for encouraging me to network and providing me with the opportunity to meet other professionals.”

Full-time MBA student Oscar Garzon echoes the positive feedback. “For those of us who arrive from Latin America into such a different culture, many doubts and fears arise every day,” he says. “But Luis knows how we think and sees our potential; he shows us how to overcome those fears and leverage the strengths of our culture as we explore the U.S. corporate environment.”