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Saturday, May 8, 2021

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Omar Yepez ('20) Omar Yepez ('20)
 


Taking Charge

While at SDSU, recent graduate Omar Yepez set out to utilize all the resources the university offered. The result? A diploma and career.
By Aaron Burgin
 

“SDSU has so many resources available to you but you have to do your part. If you seek it, SDSU will be there for you.”

The ball might have stopped bouncing for Omar Yepez, but the life lessons remain.

Teamwork. Understanding roles. Calculated decisions. 

A high school basketball standout, Yepez graduated less than one week ago from San Diego State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and will join professional services giant Ernst & Young’s office in Los Angeles in August. 

Yepez said that SDSU — and the game he still loves — have prepared him for the next step in life. 

“SDSU has so many resources available to you,” he said, “but you have to do your part. If you seek it, SDSU will be there for you.

“And basketball prepared me with a number of life lessons that I apply to this day,” Yepez said. 

Yepez, a graduate of Marshall Fundamental School in Pasadena, first arrived on campus in the summer of 2015 as a participant in the Summer Bridge program run by the Educational Opportunity Program in the Division of Student Affairs. He has remained tethered to EOP, working there as part of the front desk management staff all but one semester.

“EOP has challenged me,” he said. “Any time I had questions, their counselors were willing to talk to me. Every step of the way, they provided me with guidance and a listening ear.”

He singled out counselor Robert Guzman as being a “father figure” since he took Guzman’s class during Summer Bridge five years ago. 

Guzman, who called his relationship with Yepez an enduring one, said Yepez made EOP “a better place for everyone” by making students comfortable in the tutoring center and mentoring and tutoring students who needed an additional push in accounting subjects. 

“It really has been a joy watching him ‘grow up,’” Guzman said. “Through it all he dedicated himself to a life of service while working in EOP.”  

Yepez settled into SDSU for a career in business management and was required to take financial accounting fundamentals, better known as Accounting 201, as part of his pre-major work. 

It turns out he was a natural for accounting, and his professor encouraged him to consider it  fhis major. Or 

“Our professor told us that there was a career for us in accounting if you had the passion for it,” Yepez said, “and I did. So I changed my major shortly after that.”

He likens accounting to a puzzle. 

“You’re trying to see what is missing from that puzzle to balance it out,” Yepez said. “As you go further into it, it is about analyzing data. Also, accounting helps you manage a business, and the more you know about it, the more you know what goes into running a successful business.”

Nancy Jones, an accounting professor whom Yepez called one of his biggest mentors, got choked up talking about his growth in the program.

“Like so many undergrads starting in the program, he was still fairly young and new in accounting, but I watched him morph into an amazing student,” Jones said. “He has a great work ethic, he makes great relationships and he is the type of leader that others follow — not domineering but leads by example. He is going to go places.”

One of the biggest puzzles for college seniors is finding their way after graduation, whether it be to graduate school or into a career.

Yepez said SDSU’s Career Services has been critical in his journey. He’s attended dozens of Career Services workshops and fairs, including Resumania, employer information sessions, career counseling and job fairs. 

“I have always been a proactive person, so I sought out their help, and they have prepared me a lot,” Yepez said. “It goes back to you having to do your part. Because the resources are there.”

Career Services helped him land his first accounting internship in 2018. He then connected with Ernst & Young at Meet the Firms, a biannual event hosted by the Student Accounting Society.

”Our center is very proud of Omar,” said Career Services Director James Tarbox. “Omar's ability to network on campus, to take advantage of employer contacts and to leverage the excellent education that he received from the Charles W. Lamden School of Accountancy all embody the proactive and determined approach that sets SDSU students apart.”

Guzman said he is confident Yepez will never forget his roots and the work ethic instilled to him by his parents, and will mentor others aspiring to become the first in their families to earn a college degree. 

Which leads us back to the hardwood, where Yepez said learning how to adapt his game as an undersized basketball center in high school helped him pivot from business management to accounting. 

Being proactive in conditioning and workouts taught him how to actively seek the help of counselors at EOP and Career Services. Working with players of varying skill levels helped Yepez gauge in college what each person in a group brought to the table.

Does he miss it?

“Basketball will always be a big part of who I am; I still play it recreationally,” said Yepez, a self-proclaimed die-hard Lakers fan. “It’s a big part of who I am today.”