Manuel Garcia ’04, Private Equity Consultant and Director, Accordion

BS, Business Administration, William Paterson University

“As a first-generation college student, I needed guidance, so I networked with fellow business students, professors, and alumni. That gave me a competitive advantage in the workforce; I was better prepared to navigate and build my path to professional success.”

Manuel “Manny” Garcia ’04 was a business student at WP during an exciting time: the 1600 Valley Road extension of the main campus—home to the Cotsakos College of Business and the College of Education—had just made its debut. Business students now had a hub in which they could more easily connect and collaborate, thanks in part to the technologically advanced Financial Learning Center.

“Meeting and working with students at the new business campus who had the same goals and career aspirations was motivating as a first-generation college student,” Garcia says. He couldn’t seek guidance from his family in terms of academics or a corporate career, but learning how to find an internship, prepare for interviews, and connect with previous WP alums without that safety net gave Garcia a competitive advantage in the workforce. He had grown more resilient, resourceful, and independent—ready to pave his own path to professional success.

“I would tell first-generation college students to seek mentors, as a student and post-graduation, that are within their field, and who can provide guidance on networking, applying to competitive positions, and how to be successful long term,” Garcia says.

Among the WP alums that Garcia credits with providing him guidance as a student and mentorship in his career: William J. Pesce ’73 and Jeff Millar ‘80.

Pesce, a first-generation student himself and CEO of John Wiley and Sons at the time, invited Garcia to his office, where he helped introduce him to what it was like to work in a corporate environment. As a first-generation student turned CEO, Pesce was “inspiring” to Garcia, who says he didn’t know whether or not he “belonged” in a corporate environment at the time. Pesce was “instrumental” in helping Garcia land his first job, and still serves as his mentor today. The two met after Garcia was awarded a scholarship created in memory of Pesce’s father.

Through a shadowing program in the Cotsakos College of Business, Garcia met Millar, a managing director of global subsidiary banking at MUFG, who brought Garcia to meet his various corporate clients, including senior executives at Time Warner. Millar subsequently provided Garcia with career guidance, shared Garcia’s resumé with colleagues, and proactively provided him with mentorship in the early days of his finance career. “Jeff and I continue to be close friends today, and I continue to be inspired by him—someone that has keen interest in my continued success,” Garcia says.

Another “key resource” for WP’s students, particularly the first-generation students, according to Garcia, is the University’s Pesce Family Mentoring Institute, where students are matched wtih mentors— both alumni and friends of WP – in their chosen professional field. Among those mentors? Garcia.