Andrea Zeller '90, Social Studies
At the age of 26, Andrea Zeller became fed up with a series of dead-end jobs. She wanted to increase her earning potential and decided an education at Cal Poly Pomona was the key.
After graduating in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in social sciences and a minor in business, Zeller quickly found doors opening for her - doors that led her to a successful career in small business, consulting and development.
Now executive director of Mission Community Services Corporation (MCSC), Zeller is helping others find the key to opening their own doors through small business creation and growth.
“We change lives. We're helping people increase their incomes and find a sustainable way to earn a living,” she said.
At MCSC, Zeller looks to help people who are in a similar situation she faced in the 1970's, when a larger wage gap existed between men and women.
As a financial analyst early in her career, Zeller was confronted with the fact that she wouldn't be able to advance without a college degree. She realized in order to increase her income and better understand the world - she needed to go to college.
After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Zeller soon found herself beginning a career that would lead her to a variety of jobs in environmental planning, infrastructure development and economic development.
“My career has always been where the hot issues and the economy were at the time,” Zeller said. “Even though I never liked economics in college, that's where I ended up, and now I love it.”
Caltrans gave Zeller her first job out of college after she impressed them at a job fair on campus. At Caltrans, she prepared and processed environmental documents, including key reports that paved the way for the new 28-mile corridor of the 210 Freeway from La Verne to San Bernardino.
After Caltrans, Zeller worked for the California Technology, Trade & Commerce Agency and California Small Business Development Center where she gained the expertise and knowledge to become involved in economic development.
Zeller credits her education at Cal Poly Pomona for preparing her for the sudden twists in her career that have led her to where she is now.
“Social sciences gave me a well-rounded perspective on economic issues, social issues, environmental issues and a broad education that put me in a very good position to do the community and economic development work that I'm doing now,” she said.
Zeller now looks to return the favor by helping Cal Poly Pomona students through the Bronco Mentoring Program.
She admits that she didn't draw on mentors until after college, but has since found several mentors throughout her career. Since 2002, her current mentor Anita Robinson, president and CEO of Mission Community Bank, has guided Zeller to create the non-profit women's business center she works in today.
“The work I do is all about mentoring at the women's business center,” Zeller said. “A big part of our program is linking successful business women with those who are starting to run their business.”
Zeller hopes to advise students on how to sell themselves to potential employers. She also encourages them to get their foot in the door by volunteering in the fields they are interested in pursuing.