Amelia Vasquez

Business Administration 1997, 1999 & 2002
Director of Member Services at Collier Building Industry Association (CBIA)

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 journey.

“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 explained.

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!”

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