Originally from El Paso, TX, Robert Palacios, ‘21, is a Mexican-American who worked in economic development and startups prior to coming to Chicago Booth. Robert shares his unique perspective about why he chose to pursue an MBA, the value of representation, and Hispanic Heritage Month.
What motivated you to pursue an MBA?
A couple different things. Immediately prior to Booth I worked at a non-profit economic development agency. I was enjoying the job and the impact I was making, but I was ready to get experience at a larger organization and in other industries. I felt an MBA was the best way to pivot in my career. Also, my long-term goal is to return to my hometown, El Paso, Texas and run for elected office. I think that being successful in that type of position requires a solid understanding of things like finance, economics, and management, which are at the core of the MBA curriculum. I felt that Booth was the best place for my MBA due to the flexible curriculum, tight-knit community, world class reputation, and incredible access to career opportunities.
What role, if any, did seeing students and alumni who look like you play in your decision of where to pursue your MBA?
It played an important role in my case. My Booth interviewer was also Latino and was a leader in Booth’s Hispanic American Business Students Association (HABSA). It immediately put me at ease knowing that I had this in common with my interviewer and helped the rest of the interview go smoothly. My experience at First Day, Booth’s welcome weekend, was also important. HABSA hosted a brunch for prospective students that weekend, where I had the chance to meet several current students. I could tell that there was a strong, welcoming community that I’d be a part of if I decided to come to Booth.
What does Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to recognize the many contributions that Latino people have made to this country. It’s also a time to appreciate the incredible diversity within the Latino community.
Personally, I sometimes struggled with my identity growing up. As a second/third generation Mexican-American, I felt connected to my heritage through the norteño songs my grandfather would sing, the mixture of Spanish and English spoken at family gatherings, and the tamales and pozole we ate every Christmas. But in other ways, I felt distant from my heritage. Unlike many of my friends and classmates growing up on the US-Mexico border, I had never lived in Mexico and my Spanish wasn’t always perfect.
Over time, I’ve learned to embrace my Mexican-American background and identity. My worldview and experiences have been shaped by my Mexican heritage and my life in the United States. And my story is hardly unique. People have immigrated to the US from across Latin America in search of a better life for themselves and their children, and in the process have made this country more prosperous and culturally vibrant. So, I think that’s what Hispanic Heritage Month is all about – celebrating the contributions that Latinos have made in this country and the culture that we’ve created.