“Commitment and Time Management”: An Interview with Cassandra Abarca    

Cassandra (CRSM ’18  Alverno College ’22) and I spoke on the phone not long after a Boston-based non-profit announced that she had been elected to the organization’s 2020-2021 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. Like most recent college prep graduates, her journey during the Covid-19 pandemic can only be described as unpredictable. But it is clear that her ambition and mastery of time management has helped her navigate the changes.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed 

I’m glad we were finally able to connect; you are a VERY busy person.
I know – it’s such a chaotic time right now! It takes a lot of effort to accommodate during these difficult times.

That’s quite an honor to be selected as a Newman Fellow* – one of only 290 across the country?
Yes, thanks! I was surprised.

I want to talk more about that, but first, let’s talk about your time as you moved from public school in Waukegan to CRSM and on to college. Were your parents in favor of your going to CRSM?
They assumed I would attend Waukegan. But when I brought CRSM up, they were excited for me, because they had missed their chance to go to college. It worked out even better than I expected.

Better in what ways?
My work study experience was amazing. I was lucky enough to have worked all four years at Discover’s Law Department. I was Secretary of the Ambassador Program, and I was able to volunteer a lot – The Northern Illinois Food Bank, Feed My Starving Children, PADS…Mr. Dippold at one point was like one of my best friends.   [laughing]  And, I got to be in the first group to graduate from the new building!

You mentioned working all four years at Discover, it doesn’t always work out like that.
No it doesn’t. I was lucky. In fact, I was invited back as a contractor during the summers, so I ended up working in the Legal Department for more than four years.
It’s an interesting story. Since my freshman year I had been doing litigation and bankruptcy document file management, placing the files in the storage room. As time went on, and the room was nearing capacity I would think to myself, “I feel sorry for the person that will have to deal with this when the room is full.”
It turned out to be me!
I was given the project to finish before I left for school. I used spreadsheets and Serengeti (a program used to manage legal matters, invoices, budgets, status reports and documents) to track and update the files, and with the help of a CRSM student that I trained, it was finished.

So, it was off to college. You were accepted to a number of schools; you chose Alverno College. What went into that decision?
I was accepted into several schools in Wisconsin. I was pretty sure about attending Mount Mary University, until one week before decision day when I received a call from Alverno to do a tour. As soon as I arrived there, I knew it was a fit for me. As it turns out, even though Alverno was not the least expensive choice, going to a small, all girls college, with a commitment to diversity made the transition to college easier for me. I did receive financial help from them, and a Cristo Rey College Scholarship; but to make ends meet, I made sure I had two jobs lined up on campus before I arrived first semester.

That is a very heavy load – two jobs, a double major in Business and Spanish, leadership in several organizations including the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee and a significant project in your role as a Newman Civic Fellow.
I guess it’s my abilities in time management. I know I get my ambition from my dad. I’m excited about the focus of my Newman Fellowship. I first learned about redlining through conversations with executives at Discover. When I arrived at Alverno, I was surprised to find out that redlining is most prevalent in Milwaukee. My initial work is centering around the history, laws, statistics and effects of redlining. I’m looking forward to the national meeting at Tufts scheduled for the spring.

You’re a rising junior at Alverno, how has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you?
When the pandemic hit at spring break, I went from having three jobs to zero jobs and having to head home. I’m currently commuting to Milwaukee twice a week to work at Alverno’s Career Studio and the HR Department. I just learned that I won a scholarship from HPGM, so with my jobs and the scholarships I’ve been given this year, I’ll be more financially stable. We’re all waiting to hear about how school will be handled in the fall.

When it comes to all your positive outcomes, was there something that you took with you from CRSM that stands out?
Yes. CRSM will prepare you for college and work. The grit that Dr. Odiotti always speaks about – means to commit. And that, along with good time management, leads to success.


*The Newman Civic Fellowship is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation. Learn more at compact.org/newman-civic-fellowship.

Campus Compact is a national coalition of colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. Campus Compact supports institutions in fulfilling their public purposes by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility. As the largest national higher education association dedicated solely to campus-based civic engagement, we provide professional development to administrators and faculty to enable them to engage effectively, facilitate national partnerships connecting campuses with key issues in their local communities, build pilot programs to test and refine promising models in engaged teaching and scholarship, celebrate and cultivate student civic leadership, and convene higher education institutions and partners beyond higher education to share knowledge and develop collective capacity. Visit www.compact.org.

Published on March 6, 2020 | Categories: Newsroom