Alumni Profile: Frances Gonzalez ’13


Please introduce yourself, the year you graduated, and what was your major when you graduated?

My name is Frances Julian Gonzalez and I was born and raised in the South Bronx. I graduated in 2013 from the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

What was your Syracuse University experience like when you attended?

As a first generation Latino student hailing from the South Bronx, it was hard attending a predominantly white school that was 4.5 hours away from home. Truthfully, it was a culture shock at first, as I had trouble branching out of my comfort zone. I joined several organizations such as National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), and even co-founded the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) at SU in order to develop connections with people that I was accustomed to hanging out with back home. I quickly learned that in order to succeed at SU, I had to get out of my comfort zone and expand my network of acquaintances and friends. It was ultimately through my involvement with the engineering organizations and after joining La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. that I broke out of my shell. As a leader on campus, I worked with several other students to organize various events at SU and give back to the community. I was glad that I was able to not only grow as a person, but also as a leader. I am eternally grateful for not only the opportunities I was afforded as an undergraduate, but also for the life long friends and connections I made at Syracuse.

What did you do post-SU?

Upon graduating from Syracuse University, I accepted a full-time position at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of military and commercial helicopters. Sikorsky is also a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

I had the opportunity to intern at Sikorsky because I was a participant of the Igor Sikorsky Scholarship Program (ISSP), a highly competitive program in which I was accepted during my spring semester in 2011. The program allowed scholars to intern or co-op for the company during the school year or in the summer. My affiliations with the scholarship program made it possible to not only land a full-time position with the company, but to also make the transition from college to the corporate world easy.

Beyond work endeavors, I serve as one of the selected recruiters for the ISSP, which grants me the opportunity to interview and recruit highly talented undergraduate engineering students at different universities and conferences across the nation.

More recently, I have been working on establishing a mentoring program at a local Boys and Girls Club through my involvement in organizations within Sikorsky, such as the Hispanic Leadership Forum (HLF) and the professional Connecticut chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). I believe in “lifting others as you climb” and helping the next generation of college students to get where I am now and go beyond.

What’s the best advice you would give to current students?

Network! I was able to land a full-time job before I graduated because of the people I knew within the industry. I was blessed with the opportunity to intern for a Fortune 500 company, but it was because I worked hard to establish great relationships with the UTC recruiters at all the SU career fairs. My relationships with the recruiters helped me when I applied to the ISSP.

I also suggest that students start looking for internships as early as possible. As an undergraduate, I practically lived in the L.C. Smith career services office. I always tried looking for ways to improve my resume, took tips from Karen Davis on how to speak to recruiters, etc. The advice I received from Davis helped me land the scholarship opportunity, which translated into an internship opportunity. Companies are more likely to higher those who have internship experience.

Most important of all, take advantage of the resources you have at SU. You are paying over $50,000 a year to go to one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. Study abroad, join clubs and organizations, explore the local Syracuse community…you get the picture!

What do you think about LANSU Scholarship?

As a benefactor of scholarships, I think that the LANSU Scholarship is a great idea. However, I believe that more alumni like myself would donate to the cause if there was more significant advertising. We need to pave the way for our future Orangemen and Orangewomen. What better way to help current undergraduates than with a scholarship to help with the financial burden of paying for college?

Gracias Frances!

You can follow Frances on Twitter.

Interested in doing an Alumni Profile? Fill out our form and submit one!

Canal Latino: A Q&A with Senior Editor, Andrea Gompf 6/2


Come Join us at the Lubin House for a conversation with Senior Editor, Andrea Gompf, as we discuss Latino pop cultures, our past, our present, and our future. Moderated by Ghislaine Leon ’10.

Sponsored by Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University (LANSU)

Come prepared with questions!

RSVP on Eventbrite

Alumni Profile: Melissa Montanez ’11


Please introduce yourself, the year you graduated, and what was your major when you graduated?

Hello everyone! My name is Melissa Montanez, and I am from Paterson, NJ. I am a graduate of the class of 2011, from the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs and my major was in Political Science.

What was your Syracuse University experience like when you attended?

Attending Syracuse University was an indescribable experience. Although, I was admitted to one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, as an incoming freshman I often doubted my abilities to succeed at an institution of such a high caliber. When challenges and adversity started to overwhelm me several professors and peers who believed in me helped to guide me in the right direction to overcome my obstacles. Four years later, I transitioned from a shy-timid individual full of fear and blossomed into a mature adult that was able to sustain meaningful friendships, develop leadership skills and was no longer afraid of asking for help.

What did you do post-SU?

Upon graduating from Syracuse University, I spent many months looking for work. Not being able to secure a full-time job at a well-known organization, I decided to work several part-time positions because of my financial situation. Waiting for a callback was not an option I had, I had to take any opportunity that came my way at the time.

Although, I was working part-time positions networking was always at the forefront. Getting comfortable where I was-was not an idea to entertain. After several months of working at a retail store I decided that maybe a change in environment would help me to secure a better position. Rather than solely applying to jobs in the New Jersey area, I decided to expand my search into New York City.

Applying to jobs started to become a job in itself but after much persistence opportunities started to arise, scheduling interviews became the norm. But, it was actually through a family member that I was able to receive my job outside of the retail industry. She asked me if I would be willing to take a part-time job in New York City. Of course, with a change of environment being needed, I quit both of my jobs at the time, packed my bags and moved to the big apple.

The first thing I did, once receiving this offer, was to tell myself, “Melissa, make this experience count, create a portfolio, give yourself a time-line to be promoted and remember to network.” Because, I dedicated quality energy into my work and surpassed targeted blood pint goals by 10% at each drive, a promotion happened within seven months of my being within the company. The opportunity allowed for me to travel and add to my already existing network.

While, I was climbing up the corporate ladder, I realized that I was still missing something. At this point, I had achieved my first goal, which was to get a full-time with benefits, but it was not a career that aligned with my personal interests. Helping people was definitely enjoyable but being in the health-care industry was not my passion.

And, just like that as these thoughts started to circulate in my mind I lost my first full-time job. I decided that this time around, when applying for jobs it was not as difficult as when I first graduated from college. I had already been on the other side being able to understand what hiring managers were looking for in their candidates. Aside from that, my first experience helped me to clarify the route I was taking in pursuit of my goals. I knew that my next opportunity would have to bring me fulfillment and really cater to my passions. Not only did I apply to traditional websites with job postings but also, I put my networking skills to great use. I dipped back into the pool of professors and peers that once helped me overcome my obstacles as an undergrad, explained to them my situation and asked them for assistance in my newfound journey.

Through a friend of a friend and because of my accolades at the New York Blood Center, I was granted an interview with the Huffington Post. It was unbelievable. What were the chances that they would actually hire me? In the beginning, I began to doubt myself a lot but I had to remind myself that I was not that girl I used to be when I first entered Syracuse. What did I do? I did my research. I made sure that I was well prepared for the interview. Also, I knew that being hired to work at the Huffington Post would forever change my life. I walked into that interview confident, prepared and passionate. The hiring manager and I related on so many levels and I made sure to let her know that although my background was not necessarily in journalism, I had always been a hard worker.

Fast forward to today, every day when I wake up for work, I know that the hours I put in at my office will never go undervalued. I have found a career that has substance that ignites my adrenaline and makes me feel like I am really helping other people. Being a Production Assistant at the Huffington Post has not only already opened several doors for me but the job itself makes me feel like I am at the right place. Sometimes you need to lose yourself in order to find yourself again and thankfully for my network and my preparation at Syracuse I was able to use my internal compass to find where I belonged.

What’s the best advice you would give to current students?

The best advice that I would give to current students is don’t be afraid to fail.  Was it perfect timing that I lost my first job? Had the friendships I made at Syracuse impacted my life outside of the university? Was I just lucky? Luck was definitely not it, remember many people will try to undermine your success when you make it to certain places in life.  I have always been a hard worker and most importantly I have always valued networking.  If you work hard, follow your passion, and network success will be within your path.

What do you think about LANSU Scholarship?

I think that the LANSU Scholarship is a great start to supporting the Latino community at SU.  As an alumnus of SU, I understand the importance of giving back. Those who paved the way should continue to support for those who are the future seeking to succeed.

Gracias Melissa!

You can follow Melissa on Twitter.

Interested in doing an Alumni Profile? Fill out our form and submit one!

Alumni Profile: Michael Collazo ’99


Please introduce yourself, the year you graduated, and what was your major when you graduated?

My name is Michael Collazo. I am a native of Philadelphia, PA and currently live in Northern N.J. I am a 1999 grad from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where I was a Broadcast Journalism major. I was a Political Science minor.

What was your Syracuse University experience like when you attended?

Going to SU was truly a dream come true. In middle school I had heard lots of the major sports broadcasters attended Newhouse so getting admitted was a personal highlight. While on campus, I got involved with La Lucha (on which I was on the board sophomore year), SAS and some campus media outlets like Z89, La Voz and The Black Voice. I met most of my closest friends there. I like to think I learned how to improve as a academic, as a leader and as a person. I even got to experience the hoops team in the Final Four and the football team in a January bowl game. Not a bad run! :) I had a great time.

What did you do post-SU?

Well, I changed course a little. While interviewing for news producer gigs in exotic locales like Boise, Idaho and Pensacola, Florida, I decided that wasn’t my passion. So I then started a news web site which failed. Then while watching the 2001 World Series, I decided to work in baseball. So eventually I got a paid internship in minor league baseball which started my career in mostly group and premium ticket sales. I worked for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers for one year, worked with the Newark Bears minor league baseball team for six years then served as Group Sales Manager at Prudential Center until last spring.

Last year I started Dahday which is company that helps sell tickets for live event venues and promoters. Some of our clients include Apollo Theater, Beyond Sports & Entertainment, NJPAC and Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.

What’s the best advice you would give to current students?

First, take advantage of the full academic experience. Take the 300 level class – stuff that will challenge you. Use that library. Get involved with activities. Second, more than ever, it’s important to figure out while you are a student what career path you want to start when you graduate. So intern, work, network, etc. as much as you can. Internships will get you in the door, will teach you what you hate and love and informs you how to get that path to the dream job. Get started now!

What do you think about LANSU Scholarship?

LANSU is a great start towards building a Latino legacy at Syracuse University. It provides an opportunity to develop a more independent scholarship space for our student community. We remember – getting a books scholarship worked fine! Everything helps.

Gracias Michael!

You can follow Michael and Dahday on Twitter.

Interested in doing an Alumni Profile? Fill out our form and submit one!

Alumni Profile: Nathalie Quezada Warren ’08


Please introduce yourself, the year you graduated, and what was your major when you graduated?

My name is Nathalie Quezada Warren. I am Dominican, born in Puerto Rico, and raised in the Bronx, NY. I graduated May 2008 with a double major in International Relations and Psychology.

What was your Syracuse University experience like when you attended?

I knew I wanted to go to SU as soon as I stepped foot on campus. I visited during the Multicultural Spring Program and stayed overnight with a host. It was April and the weather was beautiful, the sun was out, and the birds were chirping.  Little did I know, Syracuse was playing a hoax.  Anyone who has lived in Syracuse knows this kind of weather in March is a rarity, and a total tease. During my visit, I was impressed by the diversity of SU’s population. I had previously visited other campuses and had not experienced this; I felt comfortable here and I was sold. A couple of months later I found out I had been accepted and I was psyched.

Once a student, I was very interested in getting to know the local Syracuse community. As a freshman, I co-founded the Cross-Cultural Connections Program, a successful diversity-training model that paired bilingual high school students from Syracuse’s west side community with Syracuse Police Department officers. In 2007, I was honored to receive the Racial Justice Award from Community Wide Dialogue to End Racism – InterFaith Works of Central New York and the Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship.

I joined the SU Outing Club and learned how to rock climb and cave, satisfied my adrenaline craving, and met some remarkable folks. I also studied abroad in Madrid, Spain and had a wonderful time exploring Europe and Morocco. All in all, I took the initiative to make my experience at SU what I wanted it to be – an opportunity to meet new people, step out of my comfort zone, make connections, and have fun.

What did you do post-SU?

After graduating, I worked for about a year as a Youth Health Educator for Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, then as a program coordinator and site director at Delaware Academy for Say Yes to Education, a national non-profit organization committed to increasing high school and college graduation rates for inner city youth.  I loved and became a part of the community of Delaware Academy, a local Syracuse City School District elementary school on Syracuse’s west side. I invested my time in creating and managing attendance and behavioral intervention initiatives, managing the Say Yes after-school program, the Say Yes pro-bono legal clinic within the school, and creating a student government.

In September of 2012, I took on the role of Assistant Director of Winnick Literacy Initiatives within Syracuse University’s Shaw Center for Public and Community Service. In my role, I manage the Literacy Corps tutoring program and work to forge partnerships with the local Syracuse community to sustain community literacy and programming in the community.

I still maintain close connections with Syracuse’s Latino community. I am a member of the board of directors of Partners in Learning Inc., which provides support to the MANOS Early Childhood Education program, and the West Side Learning Center, an adult education center serving refugees and others for whom English is not the first language. I also serve as a mentor to young first-generation college women through On Point for College, a college assistance program.

Certainly, the greatest thing I have done was when, in late November of 2012, my husband and I welcomed our baby girl, Ámali Luz Warren.

What’s the best advice you would give to current students?

First, make connections, and maintain them – network! I have been working with college students for many years now and am always impressed by students who find the time to touch base. These relationships are valuable; when asked to give a reference, I am able to speak more clearly to this person’s growth and successes. In addition, when career opportunities come across my desk these are the folks that come to mind. It’s hard to forget a student who is in touch.

Second, open yourself up to experiences outside of your comfort zone, whether this means eating a new food, joining a new organization, studying abroad, or simply doing something on your own. These kinds of challenges prepare you for life after college. You won’t always have the opportunity to explore Europe without obligation or go rock climbing with a group you met just two weeks ago, so cherish your time here at SU and relish in those moments.

Third, in this economic climate, it may be ever more challenging to graduate and be immediately employed in a place that you love. Do not let that dissuade you from being successful. These are stepping stones and you never know where these opportunities will lead you. Challenging situations push you to explore yourself and your environment and can be opportunities for you to open yourself up to new adventures!

What do you think about LANSU Scholarship?

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, attending college has become increasingly more difficult. Although we have enrolled larger numbers of Latino students, the issue of retention is a real one. This is especially true for those who lack access to lending or financial resources. However, this should not determine the fate of a deserving student’s college education. A LANSU Scholarship can assist in alleviating some of the financial stresses so that students can focus on what they’re here for – to be successful at a prestigious University like Syracuse.  I am proud of my alma mater for taking on this issue and providing students with a much needed resource.

Gracias Nathalie!