A Born Wildcat
Issac Ortega, Eller Economics ’15
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Growing up in Tucson, Issac Ortega attended Pueblo High School. “Pueblo sends a surprisingly low number of graduates to four-year universities, so getting that acceptance letter from the UA was one of the best things that happened to me and my family,” Ortega said. “I am a first-generation college student and choosing the UA was never a question for me. I was born a Wildcat and to this day still remember watching the 1997 National Championship game.”
During high school, Ortega took three years of economics with Steven Reff – now a lecturer at Eller. “He opened up my eyes to the world of business and inspired the business person in me,” Ortega said. “I chose to major in business economics at Eller. I love my major and everything that has to do with economics.”
Reff continues to be a major influence to Ortega. “He and I still grab lunch a couple times a semester and are able to pick up right where we left off. I definitely consider him to be one of the most influential faculty members because of the connections he is able to make with students even in a large class environment.”
Ortega said that once he had been accepted into his major, Eller helped him get great experience. “Before my junior year, I got the chance to visit Macy’s corporate in New York for a week-long experience during which I learned about retail and how Macy’s operates,” he said. Ortega was invited back for an internship, but he had a different focus: the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA).
The summer before his freshman year at the UA, Ortega took part in the New Start program. “I was encouraged to get involved in something that I would not typically get involved in,” he said. “I saw marketing for ASUA’s Freshman Class Council and I thought it seemed like a fun time, so I applied on a whim.” Although he’d been involved in high school athletics, he’d never been in student government. “After seeing the energy of other applicants during the interview process, I thought I had a slim chance to get a spot.” To his surprise, he was selected. “Over the next year, I was able to participate in amazing events such as philanthropy and outreach for everyone at the UA.”
During his sophomore year, Ortega received his first position with ASUA. “I had the privilege of working with all 500+ clubs and organizations on campus by getting them recognized and funded,” he said. “During my junior year I served as ASUA treasurer and managed the $1.6 million budget for ASUA and helped manage individual budgetary goals for the different areas within ASUA.”
This year, Ortega is ASUA president.
“If you would have told me even a year ago that I would become ASUA president, I would say you were out of your mind,” he said. “Since then I found a lot of encouragement to run because of the vision I had that people believed in and identified with. It’s been amazing to see that take shape and grow into something bigger.”
In addition to ASUA, Ortega is active in Greek life through Pi Kappa Alpha. “It has been amazing because the Greek community is so strong in Eller and most of my brothers and others are involved in Eller organizations like Eller College Student Council, Delta Sigma Pi, or Alpha Kappa Psi,” he said. “It truly has been an amazing experience to meet some of the most ambitious and driven people in Eller because of mutual connections and this is one of my favorite things about the Eller experience.”
Looking ahead, he said that one day he would love to work in the sports industry, but, “I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. I enjoy problem solving and growing projects from ideas to something that makes a difference. One of Professor Reff’s most important lessons stresses the importance of giving back to the community with whatever you do, so my ultimate goal is to start and grow a business that gives back to my community and puts people to work toward bettering the world we live in.”
In the meantime? He’s focusing on giving back as ASUA president. “At the end of my term, I want to be able to say that students truly had a say in their education and experience at the University of Arizona more than ever before. To me, that would be a successful year. This is a really special time to be a Wildcat and we will be able to shape a future where we are more engaged with our involvement, academics, and experiences than the past.”