Karla Morales ’22 MBA
Through everything she does, Karla Morales ’22 MBA has made it her mission to uplift the community around her, dreaming of the possibilities of what Tucson could be.
“Investing in Tucson is an investment in the world,” says Morales. “Both those who grow up here and those that come to pursue an education go on to work and live all over the globe—setting the tone for how Tucson is seen at a global level. The better we are a community, the more attractive we will be to businesses to come in and bring jobs with them.”
Morales’ passion for the Tucson community began at a young age, when she and her family moved to the area from Phoenix when she was in 7th grade. They had moved to the U.S. from Mexico only a few years before, without knowing a word of English.
“It was an incredibly challenging and traumatizing experience to be muted at such a formative age,” says Morales. “But with the desire to catch up with my peers and become fluent in English came a drive and determination to stay engaged in school.”
After moving to Tucson, the University of Arizona became an influential place in Morales’ life—her physical education teacher would often take their class to the Mall to run, and Morales and her brother attended the Young Writers Institute in high school—instilling in her an affinity for the campus.
After earning her associate’s degree at Pima County Community College and transferring to Arizona 1997, her life shifted.
“I had just begun classes when I found out I was going to be a mother,” recalls Morales. “I ultimately made the decision to take a break from school until my son was born and took up a job with the State of Arizona as a social services case manager. Though I tried to return to school when he was born, I had to stop again after learning that my son was epileptic. I decided it was best to focus on being a mother.”
Years later, while her children were in middle school, Morales made the decision to return to school, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2014.
“I am very proud of that degree,” says Morales. “It cost a lot of time and emotional labor.”
After graduation, Morales returned to work at the University, in Housing and Residential Life, while taking on a number of leadership roles in local nonprofit organizations, including the YMCA, Earn to Learn and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, all in an effort to help advance the local community.
“In every role, I focus on developing ways to advance our community,” says Morales. “How do we move the needle and provide opportunities, whether professional or personal? How do we help people grow, how do we give back and teach others to give back?”
Due to her influential impact in the community, Morales was invited to join the Government and Community Relations team at the University.
“This was the perfect intersection of my personal and professional passions,” says Morales. “I was able to both help people and connect community members with the University. I always love an opportunity to help people move forward.”
That mentality and her experience working with diverse populations led the University to ask her to create and serve as the director for the Office of Multicultural Advancement, where she worked to advise senior leadership and cultivate community engagement.
As she began to transition out of the Office of Multicultural Advancement, she was offered the role of vice president for Arizona Technology Council's Southern Arizona Regional Office—an opportunity she partially attributes to the Eller College of Management, where she is currently pursuing an MBA.
“My experience with Eller and with my cohort helped give me the confidence to accept this role,” says Morales. “I could see the other students—many of whom are in similar positions to this one—as my equals, which helped me realize that I too can manage a role of this scale.”
The Arizona Technology Council is one of the nation’s largest trade associations for science and technology companies, geared toward advancing technology in the state through leadership, education, legislation and social action.
And Morales is already finding ways to bring that same passion and drive for the community to her new role: “As I develop my strategic plan for the Arizona Technology Council, my focus is growth and connectivity—grow the membership rate, awareness about our tech industry—both on a local and global level. I want companies all over the world to consider doing business here.”
Morales also hopes that she can use this role to also inspire young women to pursue tech. “There is currently a gender gap in the tech industry,” she says. “I want to use my platform to help educate women, especially Latinas, that technology is where the world is going and encourage them to be brave and pursue careers in tech—it's not as scary as it may seem.”