For many college graduates, their first job after finishing school is the position of assistant manager.
Diana Abarca, however, a senior finance major at Southern Arkansas University, didn’t wait until she had her degree in hand – she became an assistant manager during her junior year in college.
But the promotion was all in a day’s work, literally, for Abarca, who has worked her way through college with a variety of jobs.
Abarca, a 2012 graduate of Hope High School, worked several jobs before taking a position with Chicken Express in Magnolia in February of 2014. Nine months later she was offered the job of assistant manager with the fast food restaurant.
For the SAU senior, balancing her college courses with her managerial duties while trying to remain active in several university groups has been challenging.
“It’s been a learning experience,” said Abarca. “There are some days when I don’t want to go to school, and there are some days I don’t want to go to work.”
Abarca’s road to success in business wasn’t always easy. She worked several summers at Days Inn in Hope, cleaning rooms as a maid. She also worked at Southern Bakery in Hope and for the Employment Resource Center at SAU.
As an assistant manager at Chicken Express, her duties include scheduling shifts for employees, completing paperwork at the end of the day, and making sure the store is clean each evening.
And while the work isn’t easy, Abarca has enjoyed the challenge.
“I love the family atmosphere,” said Abarca, whose hard work has caught the eye of the owner. “The owner asked me what I did differently. He thought I was doing a really good job.”
Abarca, who is the daughter of Jason and Rosie Wood of Hope, pondered several career interests before settling on finance. “Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. But my love was math. So I wanted to be a math teacher, but my parents wanted me to look at something else. So my freshman year I was a finance major with a math minor,” explained Abarca.
During her time at SAU, Abarca has embraced the college life, involving herself in several activities including the Enactus team in the College of Business where she helped with a project for the local homeless shelter, and as a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, where she has been treasurer for the past two years.
While Abarca has a number of dreams she hopes to explore after graduating, one of her first acts will be to help her mom realize a lifelong dream.
“My mom has always wanted to open her own restaurant. After I finish college, I want to help her do that. I want to help her be successful in her business.” Abarca also has a variety of her own interests she hopes to pursue, including a clothing store and an animal shelter. “I want to be successful in business and be able to have several different ventures. I want to be able to explore different possibilities.”
Abarca said her favorite class at SAU so far has been Personal Finance. She took the course with Dr. David Rankin, a past dean of the College of Business and president emeritus at SAU. “It gave me everything I should be exposed to, both as a finance major and just as an adult living in the world. It helped you as a person.”
Abarca plans to graduate in December of this year. She feels that she is prepared for new career challenge that will come her way.
“The College of Business has helped prepare me. And I know our professors will help me in the future if I have to call with a zillion questions. I would recommend the College of Business to anyone because of the open door policy of the professors. The professors there really do care about you.”
(Tuesday, July 14, 2015)