The World Is His Playground


Tony Villasenor '11, '13 MBA is making his way through the world.

In the 30 years he's been on the earth, he's visited 42 countries and plans to grow that number each year. His drive to discover and experience the world took root at St. Ambrose. While working on undergraduate degrees in International Business and Spanish, he was required to study abroad. He chose Barcelona.

"It was a semester-long trip. At first, I thought it would be too long. In the end, it was too short," he said. "It sparked the explorer in me."

He went exploring again after earning his H.L McLaughlin Master of Business Administration degree, working as an assistant language teacher for The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). It was a journey into the unknown. Villasenor didn't speak Japanese, was unfamiliar with the food and customs and didn't know where he would land.

The JET Program placed him in a junior high in Shinchi, a town of about 4,000 people in Fukushima Prefecture, a region still recovering from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors. Villasenor helped students learn English, and despite the language barrier, they asked him to join their clubs, spirit teams, and he became the assistant soccer coach. At the same time, he was learning to speak Japanese and became fully immersed in the community.

"My experience was one-of-a-kind," he said. "The people I met were resilient and amazing, and they taught me to look at the positive side of things. They would tell me stories about the loved ones they lost and you could just see the effort they were making to work through it and live their life."


After a year, he returned to the U.S. and became Diversity Relations Manager for IES Abroad, providing resources and scholarships to underrepresented students so they could also study abroad.

In 2017, he became Territory Sales Manager for the international company Bimbo Bakeries USA. His office was just outside Chicago, but his job took him across the world to meet with store owners. In October, he accepted a sales position with Macmillan Publishers Ltd.

"St. Ambrose prepared me for each step in my career, not only academically, but socially, too. Our classrooms were small so we got to interact with our professors, to ask questions and if they didn't have an answer, they always came back to you with the answer," Villasenor said.

Villasenor recommends St. Ambrose every chance he gets. So far, two sisters and three cousins are SAU alumni, and two more cousins will graduate within the next year.

As Villasenor continues to make his way through the world, he knows his education and drive to explore will take him far. "I love learning, learning where people come from, about their culture and experiences. Being able to relate to people from all over the world has really propelled my career," he said.

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