When asking adult learners what key aspects are crucial to succeeding
in college, many will say “time management” or “strong work ethic.” While both
rank high in the minds of most college students, Amelia Vasquez believed having
a strong support system helped her to achieve her goal of earning not just one
but three degrees from Hodges University.
Born in Honduras, Vasquez and her family moved to Florida in
1981 before settling in Collier County in 1986. Over the course of the years,
she started her family and served as co-owner of a local painting company. Experiencing
life as a single parent, Vasquez knew she needed to make a change if she wished
to find better opportunities.
“I had to invest in myself. I felt it [returning to school] would
provide better opportunities by creating a new future, and I could become a
successful example for my children,” she said. “I wanted to gain more knowledge
and skills that I could later integrate into the business or future endeavors.”
Researching colleges in the area, she discovered what was
known at the time as International College. After learning more about the
school and its program offerings, she began to understand why it was the ideal place for her to begin her educational
“I immediately knew Hodges was the perfect place to balance
my unique life and education. I found accommodating schedules, small
classrooms, a dynamic curriculum and a supportive administration. I was
impressed how a small institution could offer everything I needed,” she
Unsure of how demanding her new step in life would be, she admits
to taking “a gradual step,” enrolling in the Associate
in Science in business administration degree program in 1995 and earning
her degree in 1997. Feeling a level of confidence and empowerment, she
immediately continued into the Bachelor
of Science in business administration program, which she completed in 1999
as a result of the program’s well-balanced and structured curriculum.
“After earning my bachelor’s degree, I joined the Greater
Naples Chamber of Commerce as the general manager of their Visitor and
Information Center,” she said.
Earning two degrees in four years, she thought her
educational journey at Hodges was complete; however, a call from Dr. Fred
Nerone, the founding dean of Hodges’ Johnson School of Business, led her to
rethink her decision.
“In early 2000, I received a call from Dr. Nerone,
encouraging me to go back. A short time later, I was embarking on a full-time
schedule, making this one of the biggest challenges of my life,” she said.
Enrolling in Hodges’ Master
of Business Administration (MBA) program, she considered this new venture
as a chance to take a risk and cast a broader net when looking for career opportunities.
She knew the doors of opportunity would open with each degree earned, but she
needed to finish her master’s degree before they would open, which meant
finding a balance and support system to help her succeed.
“The biggest challenge was finding a balance between being a
full-time parent, full-time employee and being able to add a full-time academic
agenda. However, the most rewarding part was befriending many students whose
lives mirrored mine. They, too, had a full agenda, and they, too, had the same
challenges; this became my source of strength and ultimately my support
system,” Vasquez admitted.
Committed to devoting proper time with her children,
completing her homework for school and providing the best version of herself
while at work, Vasquez made it work and completed her MBA in 2002.
“I credit my success to all the passionate and committed
professors at Hodges. There are two amazing individuals I hold dear to my
heart. First, beloved Dr. Nerone because of his diligence and guidance, and
Gail Williams who, from day one, showed me friendship and mentorship. They both
saw potential and assured me, “you can do this,” “follow your dreams.” I was
armed with the confidence that then propelled me to excel,” she explained.
Upon graduating with her MBA, she left the chamber and accepted
a position as executive director of American Specialty Contractors of Florida
(ASCF) where she stayed until 2004. From there, she spent two years working in
management for a family painting business before joining the National Center
for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
It was during this time Vasquez received special recognition
by Hodges as the first Alumni of the Year in 2009. She was also featured in the
university’s “Follow the Leaders” campaign, saying, “I feel Hodges is a great
option for working professionals seeking higher education. It is very rewarding
to walk into Hodges today and see my former
professors continuing to infuse their passion for helping students succeed.”
Since leaving NCMEC IN 2011, she continued to build her
leadership and professional portfolio, accepting a position as director of
member services at Collier Building Industry Association
(CBIA), which is a nonprofit, professional association dedicated to
representing the interests of the building industry, including builders,
developers, designers and more. CBIA is comprised of industry professionals
“who are inspired to make a difference in our community through advocacy,
education, networking and philanthropy.”
Continuing to strive for bigger and better opportunities,
Vasquez is appreciative of the chance she received to grow into a confident
professional at Hodges.
“Hodges was instrumental in providing me the fundamental
learning tools for the professional I am today. I am confident, driven and
passionate, and I encourage anyone contemplating going back to school to look
into Hodges. I encourage individuals to follow their academic dreams, to stay
strong and never give up. With a little bit of determination, they, too, can
achieve their goals!”