True determination: First-generation student blazes trail at TU

Recent graduate Stephanie Mandujano (BSBA ’18) personifies what it means to be True Blue. Her True Blue identity is comprised of determination and inspiration. As the first person in her family to attend college, she is blazing the trail for her younger siblings. The Tulsa native recalls a drive to succeed that began at an early age and says she always knew she would continue her education beyond high school. Acceptance letters started to arrive from university across Oklahoma and Arkansas, but Mandujano’s heart told her one stood apart from the others.

“TU felt more like home to me,” she said. “I thought I would be just another number at a state school.” She found her place in the True Blue community. TU’s energy programs also solidified Mandujano’s decision. As someone who enjoyed her high school science and math classes, she thought majoring in petroleum engineering would fit her career aspirations.  But after sustaining serious injuries as a result of a car accident, she had to significantly scale back her course load to accommodate months of physical therapy as part of her recovery. Mandujano didn’t let the setback deter her plans, though. “I wanted to continue my education, and I wasn’t going to let a car accident stop me,” she said.

Instead, she reevaluated her future career path and switched to a major in finance with a minor in energy. “The numbers appealed to me, and it’s something familiar,” she said. She’s focused on the upstream track in the energy business minor and even contemplated adding it as a major. “I enjoy learning about title work and mineral rights and could see myself doing that in the future,” she said.

During her time at TU, Mandujano had the opportunity to intern with the City of Tulsa in Mayor G.T. Bynum’s office. “I thought it would be a good experience and a chance to contribute to the Tulsa community,” she explained, which is fundamental to the True Blue mission at TU. She worked closely with Brandon Oldham, who is the mayor’s aide and Christina Mendoza, who oversees community development and policy, on projects that included a program to welcome immigrants to Tulsa and an internship for Spanish bilingual-speakers who want to learn more about the city’s government. She also attended city council meetings, which gave her insight into how a local government operates.

“I definitely got to do hands-on work, and I feel like I left my mark on the Mayor’s office,” she said, adding, “The networking experience was amazing. That’s a big thing in business. You need to be able to meet people and talk to them.”

Mandujano’s involvement in campus activities included the Society of Professional Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Tulsa Energy Management Student Association (TEMSA). Her passions and gifts are unique additions to The University of Tulsa True Blue identity.

Mandujano lights up with excitement when talking about what her future holds. “It’s a good feeling to be a first-generation college student. It means a lot to me to set an example for my brother and sister and show them they can do whatever they want. I’m not only making my parents proud, but also the rest of my family.” She also shares this advice for anyone who might be hesitant to pursue their dreams: “I encourage people to remain in school — educate yourself. Don’t set your expectations low, because you never know if you don’t try.”

At The University of Tulsa, we celebrate the True You. A commitment to others is an important part of the True Blue identity that Mandujano is already a major part of. Giving back, leaving a lasting legacy and finding what inspires you to inspire others is what being True Blue is all about.

Read more stories about True Blue students making an impact here.