Simply put, people are in awe of Luis Jerez, who is already part of an impressive cohort of students graduating from the University of Virginia on May 22.
McIntire School of Commerce professor Jeffrey Lovelace didn’t mince words, calling Jerez “one of those students you hope to get a chance to interact with as a professor.”
Lovelace found Jerez to be among the most intelligent and engaging people he had ever taught in college. In the classroom, Lovelace said, Jerez’s presence elevates the experience for everyone, and outside of that, the student has demonstrated he’s a “true leader of character.”
This accolade for the Roanoke product is well deserved because Jerez, a commerce specialist who focused on management and information technology, was dedicated to the advancement of others.
After being part of McIntire’s first commerce cohort, a program launched in 2018 to support high-achieving and high-needs freshmen with academic mentorship, career preparation and personal development, Jerez and his peers from the cohort now represent the first generation of participants to graduate from McIntire and other schools through UVA.
Having had the opportunity to sample the culture of the business school by connecting with its faculty, staff and students, he said, the cohort confirmed their decision to apply to transfer to McIntire. at the end of his second year.
“From the moment I started high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a business-related education, and McIntire was where I needed to be,” Jerez said. “I never considered any other program.”
He insisted that, despite this early interest in the subject, the cohort program played a “major role” in his academic success and his professional future by providing essential support and some much-needed answers during his early days. on Grounds.
“Being a first-generation minority student and getting into such a prestigious university was tough,” he said. “I didn’t really have a clue what it was going to be like, and I had no parents or siblings to ask for help. The Comm Cohort has provided me with many resources and amazing tips on how to adapt and excel at AVU by teaching me how to leverage my strengths, build a personal brand, and learn how to do in the face of adversity.
Jerez has benefited greatly from the guidance he has received, including advice from Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Sonia Jiménez, as well as peer input from older students Alexandra Ramella and George Villacis, both McIntire graduates. 2020. All offered him compelling encouragement that reminded him to believe in himself, step back, and turn what he had previously considered a weakness into a strength: his personal experiences.
“During my first two years, I wondered if I really belonged at the University of Virginia,” he said. “My support group reminded me that I did.”
Additionally, the cohort has given him ways to develop his problem-solving skills and connect with people from a multitude of industries, such as when he represented UVA at two annual National Diversity Case Competitions. Indiana University.
After completing his time in the commerce cohort and later enrolling at McIntire, he remained involved in his mentorship program, serving as a senior mentor last fall.
“I took on this position because I wanted to help other students with their academic and personal development, the same way George and Ally helped me,” Jerez said. “I realized they were asking questions similar to the ones I had when I was in their shoes.”
He also returned courtesy by providing tools to those he counseled, helping them to trust their intuition and build confidence. He noted how proud he is of his former mentees, whom he now calls friends.
Business professor Paul Seaborn observed that Jerez stood out for his deep involvement in class, but perhaps more importantly for his determination to act as a classmate and teammate.
“Luis will succeed in his career because of his concern and interest for others – and his ability to overcome obstacles through hard work,” Seaborn said.
It was in Seaborn’s Global Management course that Jerez realized that a myriad of work attitudes around the world emphasized the importance of understanding cultural difference in a business context.
“In a world more connected than ever, I learned how crucial collaboration is and how diversity enhances this collaborative approach to solving organizational problems,” he said.
He explained that diverse groups statistically outperform more homogeneous groups. He saw the benefits firsthand in McIntire peer groups made up of students from different study concentrations and cultures.
As a member of the Latinx Student Network at McIntire, Jerez put her beliefs into practice, leading an effort to serve her peers and the local community. Creating the “Racing Toward the End” fundraiser in the summer of 2020, he and 39 other student racers combined to run 420 miles, raising money for the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization focused on policy change.
“It was very gratifying to know that I and many others could come out and find a way to make an impact for a cause that has plagued our country for so long,” he said.
And just as he dedicated himself to helping others as a student, Jerez will now have the chance to do so as a professional, serving clients and working with colleagues as a management consulting associate. He will join accounting firm RSM in its McLean office in mid-July, applying both the technical and interpersonal skills he developed at the University.
“I will have the opportunity to show my talents and generate value,” he said. “It’s important to me because I’ve spent the last four years learning and practicing. Now I will have the chance to perform at another level.