The Ultimate Motivation


From school, to work, to home with her daughter, Andrea is an Illini constantly on the move. We sat down with her to learn about her passion for business, the art of balancing her schedule, and what it’s like being a student-parent at UIUC.

Andrea posing with a sign that reads "#WeAreGIES!"
Andrea is proudly setting an example for her daughter as she masters the balance between work, school, and parenting.

Tell us about yourself.

“I’m from Chicago. I’m kind of by the suburbs, by Midway Airport. For high school, I went to one of the Noble Schools, which is a charter district. …  Single-mom household. I have an older sister and a younger sister.”

You’re also a first-generation college student. Can you talk a little about that, too?

“My parents didn’t finish elementary school. They came from Mexico, so I’m the first generation that was born here in the United States. My older sister went to community college and graduated with her associate’s, but I’ve been the only one who actually moved away and is on track to finish college.”

What does that mean to you?

“Just carving your own path that nobody has walked on, and then leaving that same track for the rest of the generations to come.”

Why did you choose UIUC?

“I chose UIUC because it was a Big Four [accounting firms], Big Ten school. The business school was great, and they also offered family housing.”

A finance major, Andrea has already secured a job post-graduation at a Big Four accounting firm in Chicago.

Why business, and, specifically, finance?

“I’ve always been a numbers person. Since grammar school, math was the subject that I excelled in, and I didn’t want to go into math, all of those equations with the alphabet. More of the business side of numbers.

“You can build up with finance. You can be in management; you can get certified for accounting. There are a lot of different tracks you can take career-wise with finance.”

You also work for the Gies College of Business here on campus. What do you do there?

“I work with the Undergraduate Affairs Office, so that’s where all the advisors for finance and for business administration are. The assistant deans are there; admissions is also there. Everyone is in the office, and I handle appointments, students coming in, checking in with admissions, all of that.”

And you have a four-year-old daughter. How do you balance school, work, and parenting?

“I just make sure that I’m done with everything by 5:00 p.m. so I can pick her up on time, and then from there, I do my house duties with her until she goes to bed. That’s when I do homework, or I do homework at my job if I’m able to or throughout the day. Google Calendar is one of my biggest friends.”

What’s the hardest part of being both a student and a parent on campus?

“Finding a space where parents bring their child to study. It’s mostly just students with no children, so I tend to study at home or I find a babysitter so I can study or bring friends over to study.”

What other challenges have you faced as a student-parent?

“I would say just trying to live in two different worlds. Trying to be a parent but also trying to be a student, and not finding other people who share those two identities with me. … I haven’t really made a close friend who’s a student [and] also has a child.”

Andrea's four-year-old daughter sitting in front of an on-campus sign that reads, "More than Business. Business on Purpose."
Andrea hopes to show her daughter and others that they can do anything they set their mind to: “Dreaming is believing, and there isn’t an obstacle that’s impossible to cross.”

What has being a student-parent taught you?

“It teaches you a lot of multitasking and pushes you to your limits.  I would say [it] gives you more motivation to finish school.”

What advice do you have for others who aren’t sure that they can handle both parenting and school?

“I would say it’s possible. If you need help, those resources are out there. For example, advisors. The Child Development Lab has resources if they’re needed. Also, the Child Resource Center that’s here on campus as well. All three of those things. There’s help if you reach out for help.”

Do you have a favorite memory with your daughter here on campus?

“I would say CocoMero. I would bring her there a lot, and that was one of her favorite places to go. … I don’t really bring her on campus like I used to.”

You said you want to give your daughter a better life.  What do you hope for her future? How do you think your education will help?

“I hope to show her that education is key. It can get you very far, opening up a lot of resources for her, too. For example, in the business world, I see a lot of other students who have parents who work in certain companies, or they know someone who works in certain companies. That gives them an open door to more opportunities and an early insight on how everything works. So I would want to do that for her, too, if she picks business, or anything else. I want to give her that first foot in the door.”

Speaking of futures, what are your plans after graduation?

“My plans after graduation began when I knew I wanted to work in the corporate world, in banking or financial services. So I started doing job shadows and attending diversity events for big-name companies since freshman year. I had a particular interest working with the Big Four accounting firms in Chicago, so I chased that dream starting sophomore year. I secured an internship as a junior that became remote, but that led to a full-time offer for post-graduation with one of the Big Four!”