Graduating Transfer Students Hope to Create the Best Versions of Themselves & Make the World a Better Place
For graduating economics students Felipe Zwanzger Ojeda, Steve Selleck, Marissa Sotomayor, Augie Lessins, and Benjamin Vomastek, the decision to attend college was an easy one; each looking to set themselves up for new experiences and a promising future. Beginning their collegiate careers elsewhere, these graduates were drawn to U-M knowing that the Michigan experience is unparalleled on all fronts; embodying excellence from the classroom to the football field.
A perpetual optimist, Honors student Felipe transferred to U-M from Miami Dade College as a junior in 2018 already passionate about leaving the world a better place than he found it. To this end, Felipe sees a future that melds economics and environmental science (his minor) to accentuate and advance the “good” in humanity. As a first generation student, Felipe’s driving force is his family; recognizing the sacrifices his family made so he and his brother could receive a college education, and has been proud to represent his home country of Chile throughout his time at U-M, pleased to have found the community at Michigan one of integration rather than division.
Ambitious, setting high standards and striving every day to achieve them, Steve admits he can be hard on himself in his push to reach his full potential. A first-generation college student (and Honors student at that), Steve became intrigued with Economics and politics in high school and immediately enrolled at Macomb Community College upon graduation. After a year, he transferred to Michigan State University (MSU) to study Economics; enjoying the concepts and versatility of the discipline, he knew this major would allow him the flexibility later to go into a myriad of fields from business and finance to government and politics. Though he was comfortable, Steve became curious about the world of research and wanted exposure which was not readily available at MSU. He transferred to U-M as a junior in 2018.
Also a proud first-generation student whose family had to make concessions for her and her sister to continue their educations, Marissa arrived at U-M as a sophomore in 2018 from Saginaw Valley State University to study economics. Appreciating the field’s insights to the ways companies make decisions based on consumer behavior, Marissa has incorporated her economic knowledge in an independent study for her Art & Design minor. The project aims to create sustainable materials for small artisanal businesses in Detroit and Ghana, and Marissa is responsible for conducting economic analysis of the different materials.
Hailing from Schoolcraft College and motivated to become the best possible version of himself, Benjamin fulfilled a lifelong goal of becoming a Wolverine as a junior in 2018. Most interested in applied macroeconomics when he arrived on campus, seeing how economics impacts all aspects of life and Benjamin has grown a greater appreciation for labor economics, econometrics, education, and health economics; fascinated by the direct impact policy can have on individuals and the economy overall.
Though these students encountered struggles as transfer students, including making friends and culture shock when their peers had already accustomed to life on campus, they’ve learned that growth can accompany adversity. Finding support in friends and professors—some of whom where once transfer students themselves—these students have taken advantage of the many opportunities available at U-M and gained greater independence and solidified senses of self.
Felipe joined the business fraternity Phi Beta Lambda, and the Michigan Sabermetrics, a baseball research society. Before studying abroad at the University of Cambridge in 2019 where he completed two dissertations on the impacts of renewable energies on economic development, Felipe also found an internship with the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office through connections made at U-M. There, he would conduct market analysis for the sport. Felipe now looks forward to moving to California and starting a job with the Los Angeles Angels Baseball Operations upon graduation. He is considering a graduate work in Public Policy and/or Economics.
Steve likewise found his internship invaluable—applying his working knowledge of economics to current policy issues while working at a think-tank in Washington. Additionally, Steve tied economic variables into his studies with the Department of Political Science, work for which he would later present a research poster. Hoping to find a job in research for a non-profit or for a government organization, Steve looks forward to explore and develop some non-academic pursuits toward a work/life balance including hiking, billiards, fitness, stand-up comedy, and music. He is considering pursuit of a Master’s in Public Policy at some point in the future.
Aside from her research on sustainable materials, Marissa is an advanced fellow in the Barger Leadership Institute (BLI), a flexible leadership program where students are provided with resources and opportunities to cultivate lifelong leadership skills. Through this group, Marissa was chosen as one of eight students to travel to Japan as part of the BLI's annual access trips to study mindfulness and peace leadership. Marissa now looks forward to the new boundaries and goals set in front of her as she moves to begin work with Sazerac to develop and maintain relationships in the Cleveland area, and implementing strategies to ensure their sales are satisfying their market. She plans to return to school for a Masters of Business Administration after working for some time.
Augie has already started his career, having moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work as an Operations Analyst at Walker & Dunlop, a commercial real estate finance company. Looking back on his time as a student, Augie is not only proud of his GPA and serving on the UMMA Student Engagement Council, but also that he played in the top orchestra at U-M. He looks forward to continuing to find smart people to surround himself with and growing both personally and professionally, and may pursue a graduate business degree.
As an undergraduate, Benjamin held two research assistant positions. One analyzes the initial automotive boom in the United States with Paul Rhode from the Department of Economics, and Joshua Hausman in the Ford School of Public Policy. In Benjamin’s second position, through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program he works with Kenneth Lawande of the Ford School of Public Policy to examine the 1033 program in Michigan, a program that transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. Benjamin intends to return to school for a Masters in Applied Economics after working full-time as a research assistant in Ann Arbor for a few years after graduation.
Completing their Michigan degrees is a major milestone for each of these students a testament not only to the sacrifices of they and their families have made to get them here, but to their hard work and perseverance, as well. To other transfer students, they would collectively agree: You belong here. It can be frustrating to face disadvantages or stigma, but ultimately you arrived U-M the same as anyone and will earn the same degree in the end. Don’t be intimidated—find an inner conviction that you're just as deserving of success as the next person, and surround yourself with people different from yourself. It may not be easy, it may not be comfortable, but let your discomfort push you to grow and learn and become the best version of yourself. It will be worth it.