By Margaret Maclean
Class of 2017
SPOKANE, Wash. – Ryan Lojo (’13) has come a long way since the summer of 2011 when he learned about adversity firsthand as a full-time door-to-door pest-control salesman whose long days were filled with slamming doors, awkward moments and, in one case, being chased off the property.
With a smile, Lojo endured and acquired valuable life lessons that he shared in Gonzaga’s classrooms where he earned a business administration degree (magna cum laude) with concentrations in international business and economics, and was a member of the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.
Now he’s a Fulbright scholar.
“After that experience, I’ve always thought to myself ‘this could be much worse, I could be selling door-to-door pest control.’”
Chris Stevens, director of Gonzaga’s MBA programs and Lojo’s former professor and mentor in the Hogan program, describes him as “the type of student every university seeks to produce, and the type of man every parent hopes to call his own.”
From Casper, Wyoming, Lojo gained international experience during his time at Gonzaga – serving as a summer community development intern in Cape Town, South Africa. After a few postgraduate internships, he began a two-year Peace Corps service in spring 2014 in Chinguelo, Dominican Republic, a town of some 300 residents, mostly cocoa farmers.
With only an intermediate knowledge of Spanish, one of Lojo’s first assignments was to work with a community organization to build a greenhouse. The only problem was the organization didn’t exist. Scrambling to figure out what to do, Lojo turned to his business and entrepreneurial principles and “asked the customers” what they needed most. Turns out, the villagers most wanted their children to be literate in Spanish and to know basic English.
Lojo got to work on the curriculum. Within a year, children’s literacy improved; after two years, the gains were significant. In addition, he presented business workshops to the town’s women. Real change took place.
Aiming to leverage lessons from Gonzaga and the Peace Corps to help more people, Lojo applied for the Fulbright scholar program, which offers the world’s best and brightest students global opportunities for service projects or teaching.
Applying for the Fulbright from the isolated village of Chinguelo, which had no electricity, posed challenges for Lojo. He drafted essays longhand and traveled hours to reach a computer with an internet connection. In a finalist interview for the Fulbright, a Georgetown University alumnus asked Lojo how his Jesuit education had contributed to his development.
“I told him, ‘it’s not only caring about your personal path, but also how your path is affecting the world around you, and how you can use the skills you have to improve the lives of others,’” Lojo recalls.
Lojo acknowledges that his Peace Corps success came after the greenhouse project fell “flat on its face.” Responding to improve community literacy was one of the most difficult challenges he’s ever faced, but also among his most rewarding.
“I learned what it’s like to go through cyclical failure, beyond just getting a poor grade on a test, or not making the varsity tennis team as a sophomore in high school,” Lojo recalls.
Lojo began taking graduate courses Aug. 26 at the Autonomous Technical Institute of Mexico in Mexico City – known for its economics, political science and international relations programs. On Sept. 1, he began working as an analyst at Convixion, a consulting company operating in various sectors. He’s excited to continue developing the skills and knowledge learned at Gonzaga and the Peace Corps to help others as a Fulbright scholar.
When his Fulbright experience ends in June of 2017, Lojo plans to continue working in Latin America to advance social justice through ethical business practice.
“My goals are to do good things in Latin America, and be a nice person,” Lojo said.
Asked what advice he’d give high school seniors, Lojo said he’d tell them, “go to Gonzaga, take advantage of all the opportunities available to you and don’t be afraid of doing something a little different.”