As someone who helped steer an immigrant family business through challenging times, Ralph L. Gazitua, President and CEO of Miami logistics firm WTDC, knows what it’s like to struggle for success. He hopes his story will inspire FIU students to reflect on their own experiences and values, and make community service a key component of their careers.
To further these goals, Gazitua and his son, FIU Business alumnus Sean P. Gazitua, created an essay contest, asking members of the International Business Honor Society (IBHS) to reflect on his service mission and their own values. On October 12, 2016, the pair awarded Andrea Alonso, a finance major, a $1,000 scholarship to help her participate in the annual IBHS service trip in 2017. It is the second time WTDC has presented the award to an FIU Business student.
“Andrea captured so much of who we are,” Ralph Gazitua said. “She reminded us of how much we have to give back and how easy it is to lose everything in a minute; it came from the heart.”
The scholarship reinforces Alonso’s determination to reach the career and life goals she has set.
“It has made me believe in my capabilities more,” said Alonso, who graduates in 2017. “I have entered several other scholarship competitions before but never won. I am happy I never gave up in applying, because it serves as a lesson that if you work hard and don’t give up, you will succeed in the end.”
Struggles help set the path for success.
Through an annual trip abroad, the College of Business’ IBHS executes an international service project. In 2017, the students plan to return to India, where they are working with a group of women to create a source of sustainable income through craft work. Last March, nine students visited the village of Bandhwari, near New Delhi, teaching the women and girls to create the Moroccan pouf, an ottoman-style hassock.
“My biggest learning experience next year will be interacting and helping women in India to find their strengths and help them develop the adequate skills in order for them to start their micro businesses,” Alonso said. “It’s an experience that I will share with future employees and co-workers.”
Their partnership with the College of Business also gives WTDC executives access to a valuable talent pool of students to help drive the company’s continued growth. Sean P. Gazitua (BBA ’04), now vice president of WTDC, pointed out that the company works closely with the college to identify interns as well as part- and full-time employees that would be a good fit for WTDC.
“WTDC was started by my grandfather, father and uncle John 40 years ago, and we’re always looking to reenergize the company,” he said. “We want to bring in university students and graduates interested in the logistics field.”
Father and son recalled the immigrant family’s struggles, as well as the challenges WTDC has faced over time, and how they’ve adapted the business model to meet the changing demands of the marketplace.
“Our students are our future leaders, and we want to make sure that talent we’re developing stays in Miami,” said Ralph L. Gazitua. “The best way to harvest new talent is to work with them, to guide them.”
IBHS faculty advisor David Wernick noted that relationships like the one with WTDC benefit both College of Business students and the partner companies. Students learn firsthand about the business life, issues and trends, while business owners and executives get access to promising young talent and a chance to give back to the community by supporting projects that have a real social impact.
“Working with a dynamic, family-run company like WTDC is a perfecting opportunity for students interested in international entrepreneurship, marketing, and logistics to get a behind the scenes,” said Wernick, senior lecturer in the Department of Management and International Business. “Students participating in IBHS get practical information that can benefit their careers while expanding their personal and professional networks and learning about internship opportunities.”
The Gazitua family has maintained close ties to FIU for nearly two decades. Son Luis Andre, now an attorney, is an FIU alumnus (BA ’00) while both Ralph L. Gazitua and Sean P. Gazitua have served on the university’s President’s Council. Additionally, Ralph L. Gazitua’s wife Cookie Gazitua is a member of the Advisory Board for the Frost Art Museum at FIU.
Excerpts from Andrea Alonso’s essay on Ralph Gazitua’s presentation to IBHS students:
I am grateful that he believes in our IBHS society, and admire him for his humility and work ethic. Not many people believe that family, faith, and giving back to the community should be our top priorities.
When I was six years old, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Mexico. The city that impacted me the most was Oaxaca, because although it was the poorest city, it was where people were the happiest. This trip had a huge impact in my life and inspired me to want to help whoever I could, regardless of their background.
I believe that he is doing so much more than just helping individuals, and serving the community. He is also teaching people to not to be afraid to ask questions, to stand up for what they believe is right, to take risks, work hard, and to aim for success.