• Waco native overcomes obstacles to earn not one, but two degrees from Baylor

    Stephanie Mendoza senior portrait

    When Stephanie Mendoza (BBA ’21) was in high school at Waco’s University High, she had no idea where she wanted to go to college, or what she wanted to do when she got there.

    The first question seemed solved after she attended a two-week overnight camp at Baylor — but unfortunately, her family couldn’t make the finances work, and she headed to McLennan Community College instead. There, she discovered her way into Baylor: a full-ride transfer scholarship from the Waco Foundation, given to three top MCC students each year.

    “I asked my friend who got the same scholarship a year before what her GPA was, and she said a 4.0… I mean, I had all A’s, but I still had a lot of hard classes left!” Mendoza recalls. But she was stuck on the idea. After a lot of hard work and late nights studying, Mendoza got the scholarship and enrolled at Baylor, joining the accounting program.

    “Growing up, I didn’t see any representation of Latinos in the business field, not even in movies or shows,” she says. “When I thought of business, I thought of an older white man.”

    That lack of confidence (plus the additional hurdles she faced as a first-generation college student) almost led Mendoza to quit the program when her grades weren’t what she expected, but she says her professors rallied around her and encouraged her to persevere.

    Career classes in the business school helped her learn how to create a LinkedIn profile, write a resume from scratch, and prepare for interviews. Despite her fear of not having enough experience or knowledge about her industry, she landed an interview with Amazon, then a summer internship as a financial analyst at their headquarters in Seattle. That trip included her first solo flight, her first time living on her own, and her first stay in another state.

    Such experiences aren’t lost on Mendoza, who hopes she is blazing a trail not just for herself, but for other Latinos from similar backgrounds.

    “This summer, I’m returning to that camp I went to my junior year to talk to students who may not see themselves at Baylor,” she says. “I get to be that representation I didn’t have before, which is really cool.”

    Mendoza earned her undergraduate degree in 2021, and this weekend will add her master’s in accounting. After that, she’s headed to Dallas to join PwC as an audit associate.

    Sic ’em, Stephanie!

    [BONUS: See Mendoza at work in this video about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, through which Baylor business students annually partner with Waco’s University High School to prepare tax return filings for Wacoans in need.]