A Global Community: Bridging the Americas
Atzel Jonatan Peña '08, '20 Joined the UIW Alumni Association in 2021 as the first-ever Board of Director Representing UIW's Mexico Schools
By Jorge Jones
As a group of nine students crossed the stage on a cloudy Mexico City afternoon on June 21, 2008, history was made. UIW became the first American university to confer a collegiate degree on a Mexican campus.
For Atzel Jonatan Peña ‘08, ‘20, being a member of the first graduating class is something he holds dear to his heart. This pioneer group of Cardinals is remembered as the group paving the way for all subsequent classes.
However, nearly 15 years after crossing the stage and receiving his undergraduate degree, Peña continues to be involved with the University in a special way. In June of 2021, he was selected to the UIW Alumni Association Board of Directors, serving as the Board’s first UIW Mexico Alumni Network representative.
Peña has cemented himself as a leader among his peers, and his vision is to provide Mexican alumni with opportunities to grow and expand relationships with their Texas counterparts.
Today, UIW’s presence in Mexico continues to expand. With two campuses in the vibrant and colorful country – one in Mexico City (Centro Universitario Incarnate Word - CIW) and its newest campus located in Irapuato, Guanajuato (Universidad Incarnate Word Campus Bajío - BJX) – the University seeks to continue its rich Catholic education south of the border.
“We are one of the most recognized Catholic Universities in the state of Texas and we are constantly growing in Mexico,” he said. “Taking advantage of the talents our students and alumni have can help us find new opportunities, develop new projects and enhance our scope - creating a multicultural and multinational community.”
Undertaking a project of this measure requires detailed planning, but for the two-time UIW graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Banking and Finance (2008) and a Master of Business Administration (2020), that is not a problem. Establishing goals and objectives for the network has been his top priority since assuming his new position.
“We have determined clear goals and objectives for our UIW Mexico Alumni Network,” stated Peña. “We plan on having a series of shared REDTalk (webinars), joint networking events, conversation opportunities to allow continuous practice of the English language, alumni credential programs, and service opportunities throughout our communities.”
One of the current initiatives being planned by the network stands out for Peña. After listening to fellow alumni and current students, he learned Cardinals in Mexico are constantly expressing interest in English language immersion programs.
“I have proposed and will seek to have within each campus in Mexico City and Irapuato a space created so students and alumni can speak exclusively in English,” explained Peña. “This will enrich our knowledge that mastering English is extremely important for our students and alumni, encouraging conversation amongst them and our extended community.”
Constant communication with students keeps Peña moving forward. Through their stories and experiences, he can look back on his own journey as a young undergraduate student.
“I love being close to current students and recent graduates,” said Peña. “We do great things together. Knowing that we can grow and have many more graduates join the UIW Mexico Alumni Network motivates me to keep striving for excellence.”
In addition to motivation, these individuals remind Peña of his time as a high school senior searching for higher education opportunities. He would eventually enroll at CIW after a recommendation from his father, a public health doctor who worked with hospitals overseen by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word.
“I learned more about UIW thanks to my father,” remembers Peña. “He had the opportunity to work, share experiences and advise hospitals under the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. My father told me it was a golden opportunity to be able to study there. I knew it would be a challenge, but looked forward to the opportunity of creating relationships with students in the United States.”
Upon graduating, Peña started climbing the ranks in the finance industry. His education led him to his current position as a wealth management senior financial advisor for Skandia, a financial company with over 65 years focusing on investments for large multinational corporations.
He attributes much of his success to the passionate professors and program directors he encountered during his time at CIW. Through absorbing knowledge and learning from their experiences, he developed a vision for success.
“Being able to learn from our teachers and directors like Carlos Diaz, Oscar Islas, Adriana Urrutia, Mathew Whitehouse, Yanina Cruz, Marcos Fragoso, and Fabiola Ortiz was such a blessing,” said Peña. “I believe God gave me a very valuable opportunity.”
Being a member of the UIW community is important to Peña. His dream as a student has evolved into a vision he carries as the UIW Mexico Alumni Network representative.
For now, his focus is to form a strong Cardinal community in Mexico and in Texas. With a set purpose in mind, the UIW Mexico Alumni Network will give its graduates the opportunity to develop relationships with “no borders, because the sky's the limit,” Peña added.