Making the Connection

NURTURING TEAMWORK BETWEEN U.S. AND MEXICO

Regina Bernal doesn’t just come to work and put in her time. Rather, the School of Business’ entrepreneurship manager has many of the same traits as those with whom she works each day: Persistence. Motivation. Energy. Improvement. Positivity.

“Entrepreneurs have a lot of unique traits,” says Bernal ‘13, a communication studies alumna. “My personality goes along very well with the people I work with. We get things done. We’re always thinking, always talking, and always communicating ideas — while trying to make them better. What I do goes way beyond the job. Being entrepreneurial is a way of life.”

Take, for instance, the TEDxSanDiego talk, “Innovation Beyond Borders,” she gave at Copley Symphony Hall in October 2016. She was initially surprised by the invitation, but that quickly subsided, making way for full commitment.

“If you would’ve told me when I was taking a public speaking class at USD that one day I’d be giving a TEDx talk, I’d have said, ‘No way!’ But when opportunities you don’t envision for yourself are presented, you have to take the risk,” she says. “I was nervous, but then I thought about it. If you have the chance to be in front of 2,000 people and deliver a message, what would it be? Having your voice heard is an opportunity for leadership. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with having such a big platform.”

A Mexico City native and California resident since age 6, Bernal calls the U.S.-Mexico border a “mega-region” of opportunity. She cites specific examples: Tijuana’s craft beer movement melding with San Diego’s lofty status in that niche; El Cajon’s prestigious Taylor Guitars, which employs a binational workforce in Mexico and on this side of the border; and the burgeoning popularity of Taco Tuesday, which celebrates one of Mexico’s favorite foods, becoming a staple of not just San Diego but the U.S. as a whole.

“I’m a product of this region,” she says. “USD’s campus is 20 minutes from another country. From my point of view, our interactions have always been a natural thing. To me, when I think about innovation and entrepreneurship, it doesn’t stop at the border. You can’t stop ideas from going back and forth. There’s real strength in building things together.”

Bernal is dedicated to creating and building platforms for others. She and Michael Lawless, USD’s lead professor for entrepreneurship, have built two must-attend annual campus events: the Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition each spring and the USD Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference each fall. She supports women entrepreneurs via USD’s Entrepreneurship Club, represents the business school at entrepreneurship community events and volunteers for organizations that promote cross-border mentorship. And she juggles it all as a new student in USD’s leadership studies master’s program.

This approach dovetails nicely with USD’s designation as one of 37 Ashoka U Changemaker Campuses worldwide, and she’s used it a guide to her own career path.

“The whole idea of being a Changemaker, about making an impact, has always resonated with me,” she says. “When I started to evaluate how I was going to dedicate my time and talents, I was driven back to USD. And when I started working here and was around our students, I realized how much of an impact I could have.”

Listening, learning and working with professors, staff and students in the School of Business have all helped to solidify that realization. V2 and the Legacy Conference bring students and professional entrepreneurs to campus, while alumni return to share real workplace stories, give advice and serve as judges and angel investors for student ideas.

“What I really fell in love with were the people who create things,” she says. “The whole creative process in terms of coming up with an idea and actually building something is just incredible to me. When you’re hiring fellow Toreros, you’re creating something extra special.”

Her TEDx talk was inspired by what she and Lawless have done to expand V2’s reach — offering a binational track for Mexico-based university students.

“We’ve created a homegrown miracle with V2, but it really took a binational village to make it happen. We need universities, governments, entrepreneurs and investors. This is something we’ve done at USD, and it’s a symbol we can share with the world. We hope it can spill into other opportunities for collaboration.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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