Alvaro Magaña ’19 has parlayed his economics and global commerce double major into a job with $12B Fortune 200 firm L Brands, Inc. Born and raised in El Salvador, Magaña says that being a student at Denison played a key role in driving his passions and planning his success.
“I took many classes with Dr. Luis Villanueva in economic development and international labor development. I loved how he could connect the class to real issues that were going on in other countries,” says Magaña.
“From the first meetings and in-class interactions with Alvaro it was clear to me that he was talented, curious, and passionate about economics and global commerce,” says Luis Villanueva, assistant professor of economics. “In the classroom, I was often impressed by his well-informed questions, curiosity, and passion. His questions and insights often helped the class to engage in very productive discussions.”
For his global commerce senior project, Magaña did research on his home country of El Salvador. “I learned more about what was going on with migrants that were coming to the United States,” he said. “In the beginning, I thought the research was going to be more like a normal paper, but it was not — I think strong researching skills are very important to have.”
Life as an international student at Denison
“The rigorous academics at Denison were something that I had to adjust to very quickly, and coming from a tropical place to Ohio and not knowing if it’s going to snow or rain the next day was also complicated,” says Magaña.
“I went to the American School in El Salvador where I took a variety of AP and honors courses in English, but I would only speak Spanish outside of class. The language barrier of having to speak English every day without being able to speak Spanish was very difficult. Eventually, it flowed naturally.” He adds, “All of those things helped me to become more independent and use to an American lifestyle — which I’ve come to love during my four years at Denison.”
During his time here, Magaña played on the men’s squash team, was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, and was a student worker in the Information and Technology Services department.
“The importance that the squash team had on me during my time at Denison was amazing,” said Magaña. “Coming from abroad, I was able to find a group of guys who also had an international background and they became a second family away from home, that was one of the best experiences I had. I even represented Denison at various tournaments, and met people at different colleges, which is definitely useful later in life.”
Support in finding a career in America as an international student
Magaña knew he wanted to stay in the United States after he graduated, and he applied to over 200 jobs. He was encouraged to look for a company offering a rotational program. It’s a strategy in which organizations rotate employees from one job to another. Under the program, employees work in different departments within the organization, before a final position is determined for them.
Magaña’s dedication to his studies, campus involvement and overall curiosity aligned with L Brand’s criteria for passionate and hard-working associates. Since Magaña joined L Brands International Rotational Program, he has completed several business rotations within the International Division.
“At first I learned how to analyze the proper amount of Beauty inventory for each store in the Middle East, making decisions around sending more product or adjusting inventory based upon business results,” said Magaña. “I also learned about new market operations and supported the process to help launch new stores internationally for L Brands.”
Denison’s Knowlton Center for Career Preparation supports all students in their career searches, but especially international students. “Our global students have many specialized resources and programs available to help them identify and secure opportunities with exciting career paths,” said Judy White, Director of Career Preparation and Employer Relations at the Knowlton Center.
“Alvaro demonstrates the quality that so many employers want - curiosity!”
Magaña had one such special opportunity when he was invited to attend a two-day educational program for retail professionals along with other Denison students and Knowlton staff. This allowed him to learn first hand more about the retail industry, while making professional business connections — and this was all prior to his first day at work.
White adds, “Alvaro demonstrates the quality that so many employers want - curiosity! It’s important because curiosity influences one’s approach to innovation, business challenges, and ongoing learning. It is a critical competency for L Brands and one that will serve Alvaro well both personally and professionally.”
Looking forward, Magaña wants to continue doing work in international business. This passion runs in the family. His grandparents, mom, and dad were economics majors — as well as his brothers. In fact, his brother Fernando Magaña ’17 was an economics major at Denison.
“I knew from the beginning that I wanted to do economics,” says Magaña. “With my dad, there is an ongoing joke that he would say in a half-serious and half-joking tone that economics was not an option and that we had to study economics… at the end of the day we ended up loving it. I’m really grateful that my dad encouraged me to study it. When I saw the global commerce major at Denison, I decided to pursue it too.”
Villanueva adds, “It has been a pleasure and joy to have been part of Alvaro’s development as a full person and see him succeed in his life after Denison. I have enjoyed and learned from every formal and informal mentoring meeting with him. Alvaro’s story inspires me to keep building strong and meaningful relationships with my students while providing a transformative educational experience that will help them thrive in college and beyond.”