College of business and economics student tori prestianni stands in the hallway of Stephens Hall

New Women in Business student organization empowers emerging female leaders

As a marketing major, when Victoria (Tori) Prestianni sat in her business classes, she noticed that there were fewer women than men—and the women did not interact with each other much.

As the President of the University Residence Government, Prestianni had been able to connect with people and grow meaningful friendships. However, what she felt was missing from that experience was the academic connection. She wanted to bridge the academic social networking gap and create a space for women with similar academic interests to come together, share experiences, and network. So, solution-driven Prestianni founded the Women in Business club in Fall 2018. The club started with 10 members and has more than doubled to approximately 20 to 30 active members. Continue reading “New Women in Business student organization empowers emerging female leaders”

Mariana Lebron smiles as she talks to students in her leadership class

Professor’s background, values drive her passion for research and teaching

Mariana Lebrón, Ph.D, is an accomplished professor and scholar.

In just five years at TU, Lebrón has helped nearly 500 students work with over 48 non-profit and for-profit organizations through her leadership classes. She has co-authored papers on leadership development with students, and she has shared students’ innovative ideas by citing their names in published work that dares others to think differently.

“The beauty of life is that there is always more to learn,” she said. “And I intend to learn everything I can before my time here is done.”

Continue reading “Professor’s background, values drive her passion for research and teaching”

Linda ochoa holding a framed portrait of her young son

‘Non-traditional’ students excel with dedication, mentors

Growing up as the oldest of three sisters in a Salvadoran family, Linda Ochoa learned the meaning of hard work and responsibility early in her life.

While raising her son and working full time, Ochoa attended Montgomery College, then transferred to Towson University. She graduates this May with a degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. A recipient of the James L. Dunbar Memorial Scholarship and the Aramark Working Scholars Endowment Scholarship, she is looking at a bright future that she plans to dedicate to teaching and academic research in the field of marketing.

CBE faculty and staff take pride in serving non-traditional students like Ochoa. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), non-traditional students include (but are not limited to) those who work full time while enrolled, those who have dependents other than a spouse, and those who either do not have a high school diploma or entered college more than a year after they finished high school. In contrast, traditional students include those who are 18 to 22, enroll immediately after high school, attend school full-time, live on campus, and do not have major work or family responsibilities.

“Having these professors who genuinely showed that they believed in me made all the difference. They offered support and became mentors to me.”

Unlike many of their classmates, non-traditional students often face unique challenges.

“The biggest challenge was probably be finding a balance between school and family,” said Ochoa. “Sometimes it felt as if there weren’t enough hours in the day.”

The extra responsibilities non-traditional students have also means they cannot spend as much time on extracurricular activities and interacting with their classmates.

“As much as I wanted to join clubs, it was a challenge, since I usually had to get home to feed my son and help him with his homework,” she said.

At CBE, our faculty try their best to help non-traditional students like Ochoa become well prepared for the next stage of their life.

“TU has an incredible marketing department, and the support of the faculty has truly made my graduation possible,” Ochoa said, adding that professors Veronica Thomas, Pd.D., Plamen Peev, Ph.D., and Dr. Tony Stovall, Ph.D., were instrumental in her success at TU. “Having these professors who genuinely showed that they believed in me made all the difference. They offered support and became mentors to me.”

“Dr. Thomas opened her doors to me even when I was not her student and would offer me counsel and advice,” Ochoa said. “There was one day this past semester when I was having a momentary breakdown about my future and I stopped by her office. I could tell she was busy prepping for a conference, so I told her I would come back. She insisted that I take a moment and stay. It’s as if she knew I needed her in that moment.”

With CBE’s culture of inclusiveness, many students appreciate the experience and perspective of their non-traditional peers.

“[My classmates] could tell that I took my studies seriously. They acknowledged that I was more mature and that only made me a better team member,” Ochoa said. “I think that I met these types of students because TU truly has quality students.”

In addition to the support and resources available from CBE, many other programs are well established at Towson University to help non-traditional students like Ochoa. The Center for Student Diversity sponsors the Mature Students Lunch and Peer Support Group, which meets every month. There are also various scholarship funds available for mature students such as the Charlotte W. Newcombe Endowed Scholarship for Mature Women and Men, the Pathways Scholarship, and the Osher Reentry Scholarship.

Ochoa said that she is very satisfied with her achievements at Towson University and is “proud to be an alumna of such an inclusive university.” She plans to travel with her son for the summer, wanting him to experience new cultures. She is also looking forward to being accepted into a PhD program, where she will seek the training to become a professor of marketing herself and to continue her research.

Feeling confident about her future, Ochoa added, “I feel blessed that I am able to [graduate] not only with a diploma but also with three supportive mentors and excellent faculty and staff that I will keep in touch with.”

By Yongchen Zhao, Ph.D., Department of Economics

This story is a part of the colleges monthly CBE Celebrates Diversity Series, which highlights student, faculty and staff stories from our diverse community.

Erika CAvallo tests her blood sugar

‘Invisible’ disability doesn’t stop student’s success

Webster’s Dictionary defines a disability as a, “physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.”

While some disabilities are visible, not all disabilities can be seen—that is the case for students like Erika Cavallo.

A senior majoring in business administration with a marketing concentration, Cavallo was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on April 3, 2015—a date she will never forget, because it changed her life forever.

Type I Diabetes is often called the “invisible disease” because its effects on the body can’t be seen and its symptoms aren’t always noticeable to others. Daily activities that may be routine to some people can be challenging for diabetics, including Cavallo, who never knows what the day will bring.

“If I had given up when I got sick, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This disease makes me who I am.”

With Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, which is needed for glucose, which is needed for energy. Cavallo wears a wireless insulin pump on her arm called an Omnipod and a glucose monitor on her other arm called a Dexcom. Together, these devices help her get through the day a bit easier. Sometimes though, her insulin pump fails, and she doesn’t get enough insulin, causing her sugar to be higher or lower. Sometimes she gives herself too much insulin, causing a life threatening low, and she passes out.

Her entire day revolves around what her sugar is, and sometimes because of her sugar level, she is unable to do the things she wants to do. All day every day, she monitors how many carbohydrates she consumes. Over time, she has learned what things she can and can’t eat, but sometimes even when she does everything right, her sugar escalates or de-escalates at random.

However, no matter how Cavallo is feeling physically, she pushes through and doesn’t complain.

“Towson University and the College of Business and Economics have been amazing when it comes to accommodating my disease,” Cavallo said.

Towson University’s Disability Support Services (DSS) helps Cavallo provide documentation to her professors each semester, informing them of the accommodations she must have in the classroom at all times. If for some reason these accommodations are not followed, DSS will step in and assist, ensuring Cavallo receives what she needs. As a diabetic, Cavallo has rights. Laws were put in place to accommodate and help when needed. She is allowed to have food and drinks on her at all times in case of emergency. She also can’t be discriminated against in the workplace. She is allowed to do anything and everything that everyone else does.

Cavallo hasn’t let her challenges stop her from pursuing a future career in sales. She recently accepted an outside sales position with ADP. The interview process was extremely hard and consisted of five rounds of interviews. Throughout the interviews, her disability came up several times during conversation. She used it as an opportunity to demonstrate to everyone in the room how hard she has worked to get where she is today.

“If I had given up when I got sick, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “This disease makes me who I am.”

Cavallo wants everyone to know that it’s important not to judge people with disabilities.

“We might be different, but we are able to do anything that anyone else can do. We just do it in a different way,” she said. “Our disabilities don’t fully define us. We are real people with real feelings, and we deserve respect just like everyone else does. You never know what someone is going through on the inside, so you should always be kind to people.”

For more information about diabetes, visit:

By Lisa Simmons, Business Excellence

This story is a part of the colleges monthly CBE Celebrates Diversity Series, which highlights student, faculty and staff stories from our diverse community.