For Marketing major Ana Aranda, New York City has always been the promised land. Thanks to connections at NAU, she’s got the chance to return in style.
Ana’s road to New York Fashion Week started years ago with an Amtrak train ride from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now a Marketing major at Northern Arizona University, Ana was then a 12-year-old on a trip with her family, who would soon be moving from their home in Lancaster to Arizona. Her parents had decided to take the children to New York City as a last hurrah in the East.
Ana had no expectations. She had never been to New York. When the summery green of the passing Pennsylvanian landscape gave way to metropolitan bustle and she stepped off the train in Penn Station, she was awe-struck.
“It looks like you’re in a church. The ceiling is all gold, with sculptures everywhere—like a museum—just beautiful,” she recalled. The next few days, she delighted in the adventure of riding the subway; visiting Times Square, Central Park, and Liberty Island; and encountering the colorful characters who animate the city.
After she moved with her family to Phoenix, New York lived rent-free in her mind, and she imagined returning to the Big Apple to chase her dreams.
When Ana approached high school graduation and began exploring colleges, she was attracted to NAU: Flagstaff’s greenery reminded her of the East Coast. She just needed an extra push—and she got it.
“One day I was in the shower, and I came out to a voicemail from NAU,” she said. “It said, ‘congratulations, you have been offered the Lumberjack Scholars Award,’ ” a merit-based award that would cover all of Ana’s tuition costs. “My parents were so excited, they started to tear up,” she said.
Professor Trainor cares for his students, and that’s what I enjoyed about the class most. He introduced us to a lot of different opportunities.
Ana accepted the scholarship and enrolled in courses at The W. A. Franke College of Business (FCB). At first, she hadn’t decided on a major but found she had a penchant for professional sales while taking a course with Professor Kevin J. Trainor, who became a mentor. “He cares for his students, and that’s what I enjoyed about the class most,” she said. “He introduced us to a lot of different opportunities. I even got to take a sales training class with the Milwaukee Bucks!”
Assistant Professor of Practice Len Hostetter, another mentor to Ana, provided an opportunity for one student to represent FCB on an all-expense-paid trip to New York Fashion Week. When Ana learned details about the opportunity, she wasted no time in applying. This was her chance to revisit the city that had stirred her imagination since childhood.
Hundreds of students applied. But as if by fate, Ana was chosen.
“They thought I was the best option to represent the college of business,” she said. “And that just makes me feel so proud of myself—excited for my future.”
This month, Ana will head to New York Fashion Week in the city that she calls “the brain of the US” to connect with an industry that helped her find herself.
She said that on the night of her senior prom, she first realized that fashion could boost her self-esteem: “I had this beautiful burgundy dress with sparkles all over the top. I was like, wow, I look good. And I felt good. I think that’s when I first thought I could be into fashion.”
Full of anticipation about the trip, she’s preparing to network with industry leaders who can help her fulfill her dreams.
“My life goal, career-wise, is to be the head of an international sales department. I was born and raised in Mexico, so I speak Spanish as my first language,” she explained, adding that she’d also like to build on the German she learned in high school. “I think I would be a really great asset to a company that’s looking for someone who speaks multiple languages. I know I can be an even bigger benefit for a company in Latin America or other Spanish-speaking countries, and I would love to go to Europe.”
Her plan? Get someone big to remember her name. “I’m going there to see if I can talk to the head of sales from Dior, or Chanel,” she said. “I go after things and take that extra step. I like to aim high.”