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Karol Orozco MBA’22, MS’23 pairs business and data skills with people-centered values to lead TriMet to a more just future

by Melanie Moyer,

Karol Orozco MBA’22, MS’23 moved to the United States from Colombia nearly eight years ago with a dream of studying business with a human-centered approach. After earning her MBA and MS in Data Science from Willamette, Orozco is the Senior Project Manager of TriMet’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) team tasked with putting together the mass transit agency’s first strategic DEIA plan.

“My administrative, and business skills plus data science knowledge and experience working with marginalized communities is a valuable blend of skills for this work,” says Orozco, who graduated with honors from both the MBA for Professionals and Data Science programs, all while working full-time, raising two children, and learning English.

The value of her two degrees quickly became evident as she was offered a position at TriMet during her first year of classes. The Data Analysis, Modeling and Decision Making class with Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods Robert Walker revealed how her love for math and statistics could be applied to real-life business problems. “A lot of the work in nonprofit organizations or the government is not tangible, and we have to constantly show proof of what we do with communities,” Orozco shares.

Other classes, such as Professor of Operations Andrew Kach’s Operations and Information Management class, Strategic Management with Assistant Professor of Strategic Management Anusha Ramesh, and Global Management and Innovation with Professor of Global Management Gary Knight helped Orozco develop her project management and people-centered leadership skills.

After graduating from both programs, Orozco was offered a promotion to her current role developing TriMet’s first DEIA strategic plan. “This represents an entirely new endeavor for TriMet,” Orozco shares. “Our modestly-sized division has a significant mandate to forge meaningful connections across all staff.”

“As an immigrant and a person of color, sometimes we have to show proof of what we bring to the table,” Orozco shares. “Getting an MBA and a Master’s in Data Science gave me that credibility. Those degrees allow you to get into a new pool of candidates.”

With her recent success, Orozco hopes to inspire others, especially Latinas who are often told their aspirations are unreachable. She leads the Latinx Employee Resource Group at TriMet, serves as a connector for Latinx students and alumni of Willamette’s MBA program, and mentors a young Latina hoping to follow in her footsteps.

“I brought her to my office, and she said, ‘Wow, this is where you come every day?’ as we looked at my view of the Portland waterfront,” Orozco recalls. “‘This is so inspirational and empowers me to continue growing.’”

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