JANUARY 31, 2020 — When Wayne Gonzales ’11 rang the closing bell with his company at the NASDAQ Marketsite on Wall Street in New York City, he knew it was a moment that confirmed the long days, hard work and sacrifices he had made since his time being raised in a single parent home. He reflects that this will one day be a story he shares with grandchildren every time they come to visit.
Gonzales had risen from a first-generation college student with many challenges to join USIO, a top financial firm where as a vice president he uses his UTSA criminal justice degree to sniff out fraud in the financial industry.
This Roadrunner wants to not only inspire his future grandchildren but also the underserved Hispanic students in San Antonio.
We sat down with him to ask a few questions.
Can you describe your family’s economic situation when you were a child?
Growing up was tough! I am an only child and grew up in a single-parent home. My mom worked three jobs for as long as I can remember, and there were plenty of times where that wasn’t enough. I remember times where I had to pretend I wasn’t hungry, just so that my mom could eat and not sacrifice her food for me. It was truly heartbreaking, but it taught me about true, unconditional love and sacrifice.
—WAYNE GONZALES ’11,
What gave you hope that you could one day have a college degree?
When I was a teenager I realized that it was up to me on how my family’s legacy continues. Being an only child, the continuation of the family bloodline is my sole responsibility. I knew that the only way I could change the trajectory of my family’s future was to better myself.
Can you tell us the most important books you’ve read since leaving college and becoming a professional?
As a college student, what challenges did you face as a first-generation student?
There were many challenges along the way. Wondering if you were as good, as smart or as worthy of some of the more privileged students. My greatest challenge was not letting my mom down. I had made it this far and it gave my mom hope. I think every first-generation student can feel the weight of that challenge.
What advice to you have for underserved Hispanic students who are just beginning their journey to get an education?
First and foremost, know you belong here. Some people are going to try and get in your head to convince you that you do not belong in their space. You do.
Secondly, choose a major you love. When you are passionate about something, the energy and drive you display will separate you from the pack and help you to land that dream job.
Remember, hard work trumps everything. Your discipline, work ethic and sacrifice will be worth it in the end. At UTSA, I learned that no one is going to just hand me what I want. I have had to work hard for it.
What else did you learn at UTSA?
Some of my most valuable UTSA experiences weren’t academic. They were all about people—relationships, social skills, respect, pride, compassion and realizing my full potential. Most importantly, UTSA taught me leadership, how to learn from failure, and the importance of giving back.
Four years ago you said, “I may have been the first person in my family to go to college, but when the time comes for me to have my own family, they’re going to be Roadrunners. It is that simple.” Do you still feel that way?
Absolutely. Birds up!
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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.