Mariana Zayas, BA ’12, began her UD journey as a psychology major, but realized during her Rome semester that there might be other paths for her besides graduate school, which had been her original plan.
“I knew I wanted to help people, but not in what capacity,” she said. “I didn’t know what that looked like.”
Then, guided by Erin Freeman, BA ’02 MA ’03, who taught in UD’s Psychology Department at the time, Zayas discovered industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology and first stumbled upon her purpose.
“I/O psychology, with Dr. Freeman, brought together everything I love to do,” said Zayas.
She then switched to a business major with psychology and Spanish concentrations. She had been a Spanish tutor on campus her freshman and sophomore years; her junior and senior years, she interned in the Human Resources Department. She now works in the HR field, specifically as the culture and engagement senior analyst at Toyota, and has truly found her passion.
“I want to help people in their daily lives and help them be the best in their jobs, and HR is where I can do that. My passion is helping people come to work every day,” she said. “And that’s what I get to do. I love my job; it’s the best!”
Zayas praises UD’s undergraduate business program; she says that it definitely prepared her for what she’s doing now.
“It’s interesting, being a business major at a liberal arts school,” she said. “But interesting in a good way. I was taught to be a critical thinker, not to take opinions and thoughts at face value. I dig deeper. I always say to send me any resumes from UD graduates, and I’ll help them get started because they know how to think, to get to the root of a problem and to offer solutions.”
She especially recalls group projects at UD in which the caliber of each student was so high: “These groups were made up of such smart people, who held each other accountable and coached each other,” she said.
In her role at Toyota, Zayas works with the leaders of different teams, helping to enhance team member engagement; often this means changing or reinforcing the behaviors of the leaders themselves. Leaders must be respectful; they must empower their employees.
UD played a huge part in helping Zayas to see the world holistically, she says, and she brings that way of seeing things into her career.
“Home and work affect each other,” she said. “You bring your experiences, your stories and your values into the workplace.”
Further, Zayas very much appreciates UD’s alumni community and that she has friends basically anywhere in the U.S. that she might want to visit. She also loves UD’s Catholic identity and all of the quirky traditions, like Groundhog (which she has not missed ever since her spring Rome semester).
When she first visited UD during an Odyssey Day as a high school student, she sat in on Associate Professor of English Andrew Moran’s Lit Trad class and realized that if she came here, she was actually going to learn things.
She would tell current prospective students: “In general, you will definitely start to become the best version of yourself by going to this school. If you want to be a great, awesome human being, the formation you get at UD is crucial: It’s personal, it's spiritual, it’s everything.”
“I love UD,” she added. “I think it’s great, and everyone should go there.”
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