Karla Rivera (‘17) has lived her whole life with a foot in two separate worlds. At home, life is in Spanish, colorful and full of the warm smells of her native Salvadoran food. Outside, life is in English, competitive and demanding as she pursues her International Business and Spanish degree at The Catholic University of America.

Rivera’s parents fled the civil war in El Salvador as teenagers during the 1980s when the guerrillas were forcibly recruiting young men into the army. Rivera was raised in the U.S. but has been back to El Salvador to visit her grandparents and other close relatives and considers Salvadoran culture an important part of her heritage.

Her goal is to bring her two worlds together - to use her business prowess to give back to her roots and dedicate her career to international development in Latin America.

Rivera’s generation is the first in her family to attend college; her only other college educated family member is her older brother. Part of her choice in coming to the University was its Catholic identity and global perspective, which she believes will help her achieve her career goals.

“My parents have always encouraged me to be proud of my dual heritage,” said Rivera, a first generation American. “I wanted to go to a school that had the international aspects of being in a big city but had the values and social teaching that is important to me as a Catholic.”

The best part about studying at the Busch School of Business, according to Rivera, is the exposure to the real, non-theoretical business approaches offered by a faculty with extensive experience as CEOs, managers, and partners. She also finds the school embraces international perspectives.

“The business school is very culturally understanding,” she said. “Everyone is interested in my different background and excited that I bring a different context to the table.”

In addition to her business degree, Rivera serves as a mentor in the Busch School Major Mentor Program, helping incoming students within The Busch School feel engaged, supported, and welcomed as they navigate their first year of college life. She also volunteers on campus with Beacon House, an after-school program dedicated to at-risk children in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, D.C. She often encounters young immigrants who have trouble speaking English, and she uses her native Spanish to help them with their homework.

After graduation, she hopes to find a job at an NGO focused on international development in Latin America, especially in the role of lifting women and children out of poverty.