From BA to MBA: Dominican Network offers Student-Athlete Support, Opportunity

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Elias Muro ’23 started playing soccer at age four. As he grew – so did his talent and passion for the sport. By high school, Elias was excelling as both a varsity and club player. He was determined to play at the college level. So, when a Dominican University of California coach reached out, Elias listened.

“Dominican was the first school to contact me,” Elias recalls. “The fact that coach showed interest in me before I had reached my full potential really stuck with me.”

Elias was named to his high school team’s MVP as a junior and senior. His senior year he was the San Joaquin Athletic Association’s MVP. When it came time for Elias to visit colleges, Dominican was high on the list.

“I talked with other schools, but Dominican was always on my mind because of the coach’s early interest in me,” Elias says. “When we visited Dominican – I just loved the campus and the people were really welcoming. After our visit my mom said to me ‘this is where you need to go’. She said she could tell that the visit made me happy.”

As with most visitors, Elias and his family were struck by the beauty of campus. However, what really made an impact was Dominican’s focus on creating a sense of belonging for students who are the first in their families to attend college.

“I am first-gen, and my family noticed that at Dominican the faculty and the staff were so supportive of first-generation students,” he recalls. “We could tell they understood that so much of the college process is unfamiliar to first-gen families.”

Elias listened to his instincts – and to his mom – and selected Dominican. And, while Elias came to Dominican to play soccer, making the most of the opportunities in and out of the classroom quickly became his goal.

“When I arrived at Dominican, I was really focused on playing soccer and ‘doing’ school,” he recalls. “But once I started my classes and talking with my professors, I turned these priorities around. I still was focused on soccer, but I realized how important it was to really get serious about school.”

Elias majored in business with a concentration in management and a minor in global innovation and entrepreneurship in the Barowsky School of Business (BSB). He soon found mentors on campus, including Courtney Budesa, director of internships and professional development; Giulia Welch, director of career development; Dr. Chris Leeds, faculty athletic representative; and Dr. Jacob Massoud, professor of strategic management.

For Elias, the coursework brought business to life. He recalls an assignment in Dr. Massoud’s class. The students were tasked with starting a business from scratch while demonstrating what was needed to make the business profitable.

“I wanted to open a taco truck – it sounded easy and fun. But I started to realize that running a business is not just about the fun part of the job. It’s about how much it will cost to buy produce, pay employees, pay taxes, and repay business loans. I really didn’t realize how much was involved with a business until I did this project in class.”

Another course he appreciated was business communications, which Elias took his first year.

“It was an intense class, but I am so glad that I took it early because I am using what I learned every day at work. We learned how to write a cover letter, an email, a formal letter, and how to provide background information about a company. I learned so much about the basics of communication – be it though a computer or on paper – so that people would take me seriously.

When it came time to figure out a career path, Elias says his Dominican network was there to help him.

“I started talking with my professors. Dr. Leeds steered me in the right direction by asking me about my interests and then having me talk about why I liked my management class or why I liked my marketing class,” Elias says.

“Giulia Welch and Jacob Massoud spent time talking with me and helping me see how what I was learning in the classroom connected with what I was doing with my internships. This all helped me figure out what I wanted to study and why.”

Elias had a lot on his plate all four years. A valuable member of the Penguins NCAA Division II soccer team – receiving Academic All-PacWest honors in 2020 and 2022 – he traveled with his teammates throughout California and to Hawaii.

A lasting memory was “once in a lifetime” goodwill immersion trip to Costa Rica.

“From top to bottom whether we were playing soccer or not it was amazing,” Elias recalls of the trip. “Soccer is what brought us together, but there’s so much more to life than soccer and it’s about understanding each other as players and as people. The biggest thing was the community service because we were giving back to kids who were just happy to have a soccer ball.”

In addition to athletics, he also carried a full course load in BSB and gained valuable hands-on experiences through work and internships. After a year working at – and helping develop the curbside pickup process for – San Rafael’s Home Depot, Elias landed an internship with Enterprise Holdings.

“When I was a management intern at Enterprise Holdings, I really saw how what I was learning in my management courses related to my work. In class I was learning about managing cultures, understanding different personalities, and handing difficult situations. All the situations I was learning in the classroom were happening in my job.”

As Elias advanced through his BSB coursework, he continued to seek and follow his mentors’ career guidance.

“All I had to do was ask for a time to meet – or even just stop by and say hello – and the people at Dominican were happy to work with me,” he recalls.

Indeed, it was Courtney Budesa who helped him focus on sales as a career.

“I was in Courtney’s “Adulting” class – which was a valuable class – and talking with her about how I just didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in business. She helped me break it down – saying ‘you like to talk with people, you like to be around people, and you are a very positive person – sales would be a really good fit.’”

The adulting course, which is recommended for all seniors, focuses on developing the key skills students will need as they navigate critical life decisions related to finance, health, career, and relationships. The course was developed to help students develop awareness of their strengths and aptitudes, as well as provide practical information and strategies for approaching major life issues.

After graduating with his business degree in 2023, Elias enrolled in Dominican’s MBA program while also working full time as a sales representative for Verkada, which offers a range of cloud-based security measures, including AI-equipped remote monitoring cameras, controllers, wireless locks and more.

His earlier internship with Enterprise Holdings – along with his business management courses – helped prepare Elias for the new job.

“The Enterprise internship is arguably one of the best internships out there – and other companies know this. It’s a nitty gritty internship in which you learn a lot and you work hard. If you are open to both of those opportunities, then you can really succeed.”

So, while he still has a full plate, Elias says the experiences he continues to gain at Dominican are worth the long days and early mornings.

“If I could give students one piece of advice, it would be to fully use the resources at Dominican. There are people who come in every single day with the focus on helping students succeed,” he said. “Go and talk to the people in your department. Tell them what you are interested in – or just stop by to say hi. When you put yourself out there, you will be so surprised how many people will go above and beyond to help you.”

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