Banking from the Heart

Orange Country-based Wells Fargo manager Mavel Ramos brings compassion, personal history, and a University of La Verne leadership education to her community relations role.

Mavel Ramos
Voice Magazine / Stories / 2019 Fall / Banking from the Heart

At age 12, Mavel Ramos, MS ’18, was wiping down tables in the family-run hamburger stand in South Gate, California. Later, she rang up customers in the family’s flower shop. All through her teens, she watched her father’s frustration as he struggled with one business after the next.

“On top of a full-time job with a roofing company, Dad was always trying to run a business,” Ramos said. “He wanted to provide a better life for us. He just didn’t have the resources he needed.”

No one ever gave her father, a Mexican immigrant with a third-grade education, advice on how to access capital, develop a marketing strategy, or build a brand. Ramos tried to help. “I was ordering supplies, trying to figure out how to increase the cashflow. But when I left for college, he just couldn’t keep it going. He ended up selling the flower shop. I felt really bad about that,” she said.

The lessons of her youth have stayed with Ramos, 37, who earned a master’s degree in leadership and management from the University of La Verne’s Irvine campus and is now a rising leader with Wells Fargo Bank and a board member of several Orange County, California-based service organizations.

“One of my passions is being able to serve my community in a meaningful way,” she said. “I see my family in the people that are struggling with businesses.”

Ramos works in the community relations division of Wells Fargo, part of the national team that last year managed $444 million in grants supporting neighbor- hood projects through the Wells Fargo Foundation. As a regional associate consultant, she oversees the bank’s award process across the Bay Area, Oregon, and Washington state.

Banker’s Luck

Ramos fell into banking by serendipity.

Originally intending to be a doctor, she had earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from University of California, Irvine. An academic star in high school, Ramos attended on a full-ride scholarship from the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholars Program.

Then a hospital internship in the intensive care unit scuttled her plans.

“I didn’t think I could handle the emotional piece,” she said. “I always wanted to help others; medical school just wasn’t the way I wanted to do it, I realized.”

After graduating in 2005, Ramos took what she thought would be a temporary job as a Wells Fargo teller. Fourteen years later, she’s still with the bank. Promotions came quickly, and Ramos soon found a niche she loved in community relations, overseeing the bank’s financial education efforts in Orange County.

Flexible Leadership Training

Then a few years ago, a mentor suggested Ramos go back to school for a graduate degree, and something clicked.

Her career with Wells Fargo had provided plenty of hands-on experience, but Ramos wanted to fill some conceptual gaps. As a pre-med student in college, she’d had no formal education in management theory or organizational behavior.

The idea of returning to school after 14 years in the workforce was daunting. Once Ramos found out about University of La Verne’s Regional and Online Campuses, the decision became easy.

“I went to an orientation at the Irvine campus and asked a million questions,” she said. “I loved the flexibility of classroom study with the option to switch over to online classes if I ever needed to. That really sealed my decision to attend La Verne.”

In 2016, Ramos enrolled in the Master of Science in Leadership and Management program. She took all her courses in Irvine, one of 10 University of La Verne campuses across Southern California.

“I liked the feel of the campus. It was easy for me to access it right off the freeway, and really close to my home and my work,” said Ramos, who lives in Orange with her husband, Johnny. He, too, works for Wells Fargo, as a business consultant in the merchant services division.

As a full-time student, she took two courses each semester and completed her master’s degree in 2018, with a concentration in organizational development. Ramos took advantage of University of La Verne’s flexible format: once-a-week courses right after work, and weekend classes compressed into five Friday evenings and Saturdays.

“The faculty is amazing,” she said. “I really appreciate the fact that they have careers as working professionals.”

Degrees of Success

The degree has already made a difference in Ramos’ career at Wells Fargo. She credits it, in significant part, with her promotion last December.

In fact, she’s already eyeing her next La Verne degree — an MBA, Master of Public Administration, or possibly a doctorate. Her long-term goal: “I would love to be a foundation manager.”

“Overall I had such a great experience,” she says, of her time at the Irvine campus. “My only regret, honestly, is not doing it sooner.”