Born and raised in Miami as a first-generation Latina and the child of immigrants, I grew up exposed to a rich culture of people from South America. It wasn’t until I left Miami for college that I realized the uniqueness and value of my upbringing. The range of perspectives we gain from being exposed to people from different backgrounds while also celebrating our culture is something I have grown to appreciate in all aspects of life—Fuqua was no exception.

Fuqua’s Rich Diversity

When I reflect on my first year at Fuqua, I am thankful for the ways in which our cohort and sections are carefully crafted to include diverse perspectives. At Fuqua, you are grouped into a section of 60 to 70 students, with whom you take all core classes together (shout out to my table bangers!). My classmates are from India, Bangladesh, Italy, Nigeria, Ghana, Japan, Colombia, and more. They’ve worked in accounting, the auto industry, marketing, consulting, and at non-profits. There are many other ways my section is diverse, and I am thankful for how this has enriched classroom conversation and helped me think about the world.

Maria Castrillon with her Section 4 classmates at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Reconnecting with My Community

While Fuqua offers a wealth of diversity, it has also given me a space to reconnect and support my Latinx peers. Business school is challenging in many ways—you take academically rigorous classes, are involved in clubs (everything at Fuqua is student-led), and start recruiting for summer internships soon after summer term ends. This was stressful, but along the way, I was blessed to find support and friendship in a group of strong and talented Latinx MBAs at Fuqua. They resonated with the specific obstacles and fears I faced as a first-generation student from a low-income background navigating grad school. But most importantly, they cheered me on along the way.

Supporting My Peers

The support I received from the Latinx community and the Fuqua community at large, is what Team Fuqua is all about. I strongly believe Fuqua attracts a certain of type of individual: one who is always ready and eager to give back. As I prepare to begin my second year, I am excited to be a resource for my peers as co-president of the American Latinx Management Association (ALMA), along with my dear friend Ashley Pech.

Maria Castrillon with the other student leaders of the American Latinx Management Association (ALMA) at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

ALMA is a student-run club on a mission to build a diverse, inclusive, and collaborative space to promote fellowship and professional development for the underrepresented Latinx minority while celebrating American Latinx culture. We not only support current students, but we also work to help prospective students through coffee chats, resume reviews, and more.

My first year at Fuqua was a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. I can’t wait for the new friendships I will form, the diverse perspectives I will learn from, and the community I will continue to build in my second year.