Dalia Gonzalez knows all about overcoming challenges.
She graduated Friday with commendation from the International Masters in Business Administration (IMBA) program from Malaspina University-College and the University of Hertfordshire. It’s an incredible achievement for Dalia, a single mother who moved to Nanaimo from Mexico two years ago with an infant daughter and no local contacts.
"Taking the IMBA program was the toughest challenge of my life," said Dalia. "During the first two semesters, I was still breastfeeding. However, my little daughter has been the greatest motivation in my life to overcome difficulties and to keep fighting to become a better person and a better professional. Thank God she is growing up beautifully, despite having a very tired and overwhelmed mother during the past two years. She's already learning to speak English and Spanish."
Also on Friday, Dalia completed a three-month student internship as an International Marketing Associate with Malaspina’s International Education department. In January, she begins a full-time position working for Malaspina's Director of Business Operations. Dalia's success story serves as an inspiration to all students, and especially single parents.
Born and raised in Mexico, Dalia earned BA in Business Administration from Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana in Mexico City in 1999, and a Diploma in Human Resource’s Direction from the Universidad del Valle de Mexico, in 2001. She received a scholarship to attend Suffolk University in Boston, and planned to pursue an MBA. But those plans changed.
"I was packing to go, and realized that I was pregnant," said Dalia. "I cancelled all my plans. It would have been too difficult and expensive to raise a child in Boston and attend school."
Dalia remained home with her parents in Mexico, and gave birth to a baby girl in December 2003. She soon realized that life is extremely difficult for single mothers in Mexico. "Society looks down on you, and you can’t get a good job," she explained. "I didn’t have any options."
Determined to make a better life for herself and her daughter, Dalia attended an educational career fair in Mexico and met a marketing agent who promoted Malaspina’s IMBA program. She received a student loan in Mexico, and arrived in Nanaimo in August 2004 with her eight-month-old baby.
"I didn’t know a soul," she said. "I moved into a basement suite near the university-college, and hired a live-in nanny. I took classes in the morning, ran home to breastfeed my daughter at lunch time, then ran back to Malaspina for more classes in the afternoon. I was lucky if I started my homework by midnight each night. I survived on three hours of sleep daily. I have no idea how I did it."
Part way through the IMBA program, Dalia became aware that International Education was hiring student interns to market Malaspina University-College in India, China, Japan and Turkey. She submitted a proposal to the department describing why it was important to market Malaspina in Mexico.
"Fortunately they accepted my proposal and I returned to Mexico during September and October," said Dalia. "My parents spent time with their grandchild, while I traveled the country for two months. My role was to support the internationalization process of the institution, increasing awareness and understanding of Malaspina’s programs in Mexico." When Dalia returned to Nanaimo in November to present her results, she was offered a full-time job at Malaspina.
"I'm really excited about this opportunity," said Dalia. "I'll spend Christmas with my family in Mexico, and start my new job at Malaspina in January. I'll be working on some new initiatives involving the student residences."
The sacrifice and uncertainty of leaving her family in Mexico, moving to a foreign country with an infant, and pursuing her education was difficult in the beginning, but "ultimately was the best decision of my life," said Dalia.
Asked what advice she would impart to other single parents she said, "we can do anything. It doesn’t matter if we are by ourselves. We can make it. Single parents have to work really hard, especially in terms of education. Just remember - all your hard work is for yourself but also for your kids. If you achieve your goals, you’ll be happier with yourself, and your kids will be happier too."