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Student Spotlight: Albert Martinez-Arizala

By Alyssa England

Albert Martinez-Arizala

TAMPA (Aug. 3, 2020) -- After three years, three full-time internships and two universities, first-generation college student Albert Martinez-Arizala will graduate from the USF Muma College of Business in August, a year earlier than expected.

The Miami native transferred to USF after spending his first year at Barry University, a private university in his hometown. However, after assessing schooling costs and opportunities for current accounting students and recent graduates of the field in Miami, Martinez-Arizala relocated to the Tampa area. Not only was USF more financially friendly than Barry, but after performing much market research, Martinez-Arizala found the accounting field in the Tampa area was significantly less competitive than it was in Miami.

“I studied the market in Tampa, and it was a lot stronger for students than a market like Miami,” Martinez-Arizala said. “I analyzed the opportunity of what I could have in Tampa compared to Miami. In Miami, it’s a lot more difficult to find jobs because of the competition, but here, it’s cheaper and less competitive.”

Although he hopes to graduate summa cum laude from the Lynn Pippenger School of Accountancy, Martinez-Arizala did not begin his undergraduate career as an accounting student.

“I was actually a finance major at the first school I went to,” Martinez-Arizala said. “It was super difficult to get jobs, but that was also in Miami. The way that I studied the market, it’s a lot easier to get by with an accounting degree than it is with a finance degree, because the people in the higher finance positions usually have accounting degrees. It’s a lot easier to get the financial framework than it is to get the accounting framework.”

His research on the job market had paid off. In addition to full-time schoolwork, often taking 15 to 18 credit hours per semester, Martinez-Arizala completed three full-time accounting internships throughout his USF career.

“I was taking 18-credit semesters while working full-time internships 40 hours a week. I’ve never taken classes part time, even if I was working. Last spring, I was only taking 12 credits, but they were four accounting classes. My adviser told me I’d never be able to pass that schedule, that I should reconsider because nobody had ever passed it before,” Martinez-Arizala said. “I was doing an accounting internship too, working about 50 hours a week. With four accounting classes on top of that, my adviser told me it was impossible.”

Despite his adviser’s discouragement, Martinez-Arizala had successfully completed the impossible. In fact, he thrived.

“I’m originally in the class of 2021,” Martinez-Arizala said. “I’m graduating in the summer, but I was supposed to be graduating in May of next year. I’m actually graduating a year early.”

In addition to juggling school and internships, Martinez-Arizala tutored his peers in between classes and work. However, school was not always his top priority.

“I’ve just been a hard worker my entire life. Throughout my life, I was more of an entrepreneur – I was focused on making money. But once I got a little bit older, it was geared more towards school and my education.”

As he began his undergraduate career, academics shifted to the focal forefront. However, as he dove deeper into his studies, Martinez-Arizala neglected to partake in professional opportunities offered by the Muma College of Business, like networking.  

“I would have networked a lot more,” Martinez-Arizala said. “I was really closed off in the sense that I didn’t network with as many people as I should have. I think everyone needs to understand the importance of networking, because who you network with and how you brand yourself is very important. It’s probably the second-most important thing in going to school, besides getting your degree.”

However, despite wishing he had networked more, Martinez-Arizala is grateful for the opportunities the Muma College of Business has granted him.

“I finished in three years, and I was able to work internships. Really understanding what you’re capable of is a great thing, because then you know what you can and can’t do. I was able to test what I was capable of. Taking classes and working is not real life, but it gives you a nice understanding of what you are able to handle and what you want to do. It gives you a sense of accomplishment. In four years’ time, the original time for a bachelor’s, I will have a master’s degree and years’ worth of internship experience, so I feel good about the path that I took.”    

Like his peers, Martinez-Arizala had to adjust to the sudden shift to remote operations as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

“I have ADHD, so it’s the hardest thing to learn through distance learning compared to being in-person. I hate online classes, especially for the classes I was taking – Intermediate Accounting II, Cost Accounting II – these are very rigorous courses, and they are very specific. Getting inspiration to do that from home is the most difficult thing in the world for me.” 

However, school and work were not the only factors affected by the pandemic. Because of the health crisis, the father of one and his wife, who is studying to be a registered nurse, lost their childcare.

“I have a wife and a one-and-a-half year old daughter,” he said. “My wife is currently in an accelerated nursing program. All of the daycares closed down because of COVID, so I had to work, take care of my daughter and go to classes. When the spring semester started, I had straight A’s in every single class, and I had to elect S/U grading for one or two classes because of COVID. Not because I had low grades, but I want to graduate summa cum laude.”

In the fall, Martinez-Arizala will begin his hybrid (75 percent in person, 25 percent online) Master of Science in Finance program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. In addition to completing his undergraduate career with a final 18-credit summer semester and spending time with his family, Martinez-Arizala has been networking and preparing for the program while in quarantine. After graduating from SMU, he hopes to begin a career in investment banking or venture capital with a long-term goal of working in asset management or equity research in Tampa or Dallas. Martinez-Arizala is currently studying the market to discover which path would fit him best.