Alumni Profile: Rebeca Mosquera '11, M.S. Project Management

by Michelle Saport  |   

There's no stopping Rebeca Mosquera. This Panama native is always seeking opportunities to enrich her life.

Rebeca grew up in Panama City and graduated from Universidad Católica Santa María La Antigua with a degree in law and political sciences in 2005. Shortly after earning her degree, she opened her own law practice specializing in visas, regulations, and policy for U.S. immigrants and other foreign clients.

Rebecca MosqueraRebeca, who speaks Spanish, English and some French and Italian, eventually decided to apply for her own visa and move to the states. "I needed more challenge, an adventure," she said. So she moved to Denver, Colorado.

Not long after arriving in Denver, Rebeca visited her sister in Homer, Alaska-a trip that changed the direction of her life forever. She had been to Alaska several times before, but always in the winter. "You always hear people saying, 'Oh my God, Alaska is so beautiful during spring and summer,' and when I landed in Anchorage that time I said, 'Oh my God, I'm staying.'"

She literally never looked back. Rebeca had all of her belongings in Denver packed and shipped north. "My mom thought I was completely out of my mind."

That was four years ago. Rebeca landed a job at Shell Upstream Americas in the logistics department where she worked as the gatekeeper of people movement to and from rural Alaska, making sure every operation followed high safety standards. Then she started wondering, "Okay, what else can I do?"

Though Rebeca holds a degree in law, she explained that each state has different rules relating to the admittance of foreign-educated lawyers to state bar associations. Since there are no law schools in Alaska, Rebeca started to look for something that would complement her previous degree.

Rebeca started exploring the master's degree programs offered at UAA. "I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone," she said. During her research, Rebeca stumbled upon the M.S. in Project Management program and thought it was a perfect fit. After learning that it is one of only 13 project management degree programs accredited in the United States and the only one on the west coast by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, she enrolled in classes in spring 2009. She continued working for Shell full time while taking classes at UAA.

"The program has so many people from so many different backgrounds," Rebeca said. "You don't have to be an engineer to be accepted; I had an interior designer and business people in my classes." Students from all over the world participate in the program, from Nigeria and Germany, to students in the military studying from afar. "We all contribute to each other's experience," she said. "That's the great thing about UAA-it really fosters diversity."

She explained that her project management skills will help her to have a better understanding of the bigger picture in legal projects. "I now have the increased ability to foresee what might happen in certain scenarios, which is very important in my legal career. The project management program has enriched me and has made me a better asset for any company."

During her time with the program, Rebeca's professors and classmates became her close friends. She believes that UAA has done a great deal to prepare professionals for Alaska jobs, providing students with real examples they can relate to. "They [the professors] are there to help; they want the graduates of the program to be reliable professionals. They really spent the time guiding me, correcting me and trying to form the professional they want out of UAA."

For her dedication and nose-to-the-grindstone attitude, Rebeca was awarded scholarships from both UAA and the Project Management Institute Alaska Chapter. "The scholarships helped me immensely during my last few semesters," Rebeca said.

She earned her M.S. in Project Management in December 2010. Her thesis focused on the capability of virtual team members to retain project key success elements.

"Rebeca was a respected and versatile leader in and outside of the classroom, adept in her ability to integrate, unite and produce superior results from teams composed of diverse members," said LuAnn Piccard, interim director of the Engineering Science and Project Management Department at UAA. "Her international education and work experience were extremely valuable, helping her to recognize and capitalize on the "differences" and unique contributions of individual team members."

Rebeca's diploma is more to her than just a piece of paper. "You don't go to school just to get a degree, you go to school to be of help to society and give back," she said. She is looking forward to participating in the hooding and commencement ceremonies this spring.

Growing up, Rebeca's parents instilled in her a hard-working demeanor and put an emphasis on education. "My mom never stayed home; she was always working. She's such a strong woman." Rebeca's father passed away when she was only 9 years old. "My dad was and still is my hero. He married my mom when they were very young, they already had my two brothers and my sister, but he still went back to school. I remember him saying, 'The best legacy I can give you is your education.' I guess that's why I'm always working and going to school."

Rebeca currently works in the litigation department of the global law firm Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. Dorsey is a large firm, with close to 700 lawyers and 850 staff in 19 offices in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Rebeca now looks forward to climbing to the next rung on her life's ladder. She was recently accepted into the New York University School of Law. NYU is considered one of the world's top universities, ranked No. 5 nationally among the best law schools by US News & World Report 2010. Admission is highly competitive, with only a select few being admitted to the prestigious institution.

"I have big dreams," Rebeca said. "I like a challenge and I tend to get bored without one. I've never been afraid to overcome roadblocks." Having come this far, Rebeca is always looking for the next best thing. "I keep training myself, learning and climbing because I want to be able to go very far and do exactly what I love the most no matter where I am."

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