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Experience before Ivy

Author: cindyr

As seen in Ivy magazine, fall 2023.

Faculty bring real-world experiences into the classroom

Always looking forward with hope

Ileana-Maldonado-BautistaAs a young girl growing up in Puebla, Mexico, Ileana Maldonado-Bautista, knew she wanted to make a difference in her community. She grew up in a country filled with corruption and violence and would one day come face-to-face with it.

Even so, she always looked forward with hope.

Maldonado-Bautista, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship, is one of many professors who brings their real-world business experience to the classrooms. Her career went in many directions before she moved to Ames, Iowa.

“It was meant to be, to come here. Growing up in Mexico, I always wanted to make a difference in the world and to make an impact,” she said.

“My parents gave me perspective in life,” she said. “They both came from extreme poverty conditions. For example, looking back at photos of my dad in elementary school, all the kids had modest shoes. My dad was the only one without shoes. That was shocking for me to understand. My parents inspired me because they were able to overcome such challenges by engaging in entrepreneurial activities. My dad is a retired surgeon, and my mom is a family doctor. They helped me understand the business world from an aspirational and ethical perspective.”

Maldonado-Bautista’s academic background is diverse.

“I studied law and wanted to be president of Mexico,” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to change the current socioeconomic voids in Mexico and make everything better.”

Soon she realized that government participation was not the path to bring prosperity to her community. The answer was economic development through entrepreneurship. Understanding the business world was the key. She earned several degrees, including a bachelor of accounting, a master of finance, and a master of entrepreneurship.

She also enrolled in politics and later transitioned to a position with Pepsi Corporation in Mexico.

“It was a good experience learning how a large firm is operated in a developing country. There are many rules in terms of tax regulation, and I was able to learn the practical aspect. I was helping with reporting and financial statements.” However, the hours were grueling and began to affect her health.

Entrepreneurship was the right choice.

“Entrepreneurship can be seen even as a mindset. So, even if my students do not become entrepreneurs, even if they go to the workplace, they can use this mindset where they can identify a problem and creatively solve it.”

— Ileana Maldonado-Bautista

She started a business with her husband, Paul, in 2009, buying and selling handbags. That led to manufacturing the handbags. “There was a point where it was becoming successful. It was a great experience with a great learning curve,” she said.

She learned how to start and manage a business.

One thing they never considered while preparing their business plan was potential violence. “One day, these two guys with guns came into our store,” she said. “God protected us. They only took our money and inventory.” The trauma was real. After that, she knew it was time for a change. “It’s so hard. We’ve been trying for many years. I thought maybe there is another way to help our community,” she said.

They looked to the United States, where they had friends, and decided to move and pursue their PhDs. This all led to research where she focuses on creating value for the community and society. Becoming a researcher and business professor enabled her to communicate her experiences in her research and in classrooms. Her students are now her hope.

“When I teach, I have to explain where I come from, what I went through, and I explain how the theories that we learn, how the research that we write here, in the developed world, sometimes does not apply equally to the developing world. And my goal, honestly, is to teach young leaders that we need bright people who bring in new ideas or new solutions to economic problems.”

Maldonado-Bautista feels entrepreneurship creates an opportunity for students to help solve many world problems.

“Entrepreneurship can be seen even as a mindset. So, even if my students do not become entrepreneurs, even if they go to the workplace, they can use this mindset where they can identify a problem and creatively solve it.”

February 26, 2024