Ania Calvillo-Mason, a first-generation graduate student at the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno, was recently nominated and awarded as startup champion at the 16th annual 2023 NCET Tech Awards and Showcase.
Currently earning her master’s degree in business administration, Mason is also the business manager at the University’s Innevation Center, located in downtown Reno.
Mason humbly reflected on her accomplishments as this year’s startup champion and gives credit to the Economic Development of Western Nevada (EDAWN) for her nomination for this prestigious award.
“I got an email one day from EDAWN congratulating me on being nominated for this specific award, and I was honestly really surprised when I received the news and it was such an enormous honor to have been chosen,” Mason said.
While attending the NCET Tech Awards and Showcase ceremony in April, Mason was not only overwhelmed with excitement after being announced the award recipient, but she was also grateful for the opportunities she experienced during the ceremony.
“It was such a great opportunity for me to talk about and express my love for the Innevation Center, where I’ve been working for about seven years now,” Mason said. “This was also my first professional award I have ever received, so it was wonderful to meet other like-minded professionals who are working toward a shared mission that is important to all of us; especially after the pandemic, seeing everybody come together even stronger than before has been the biggest highlight by far.”
Mason earned her bachelor of science degree in human development and family studies through the College of Education at the University. Her interest in the world of business led her to return to campus for her master’s degree.
“Before starting my undergraduate experience, I’ve always had a huge interest in business, even though I tried to take business classes my first year of undergrad and couldn’t bring myself to follow through. I was too intimidated and felt like I would not succeed in the field, so I dropped the classes and changed my major to human development and family studies.” Mason said. “Regardless of my passion for human development and working with individuals one-on-one, experiencing the business and finance aspect of working at the Innevation Center for so long has helped me overcome that fear.”
This year, Mason hopes to make entrepreneurs’ and startups’ dreams become a reality, as well as create a safe environment for individuals seeking assistance from the Innevation Center.
“It was a tough three years during the pandemic, but we saw this shift of what our operations look like at the Innevation Center, and I want to assist as many people as possible who want to take their startups to the next level,” Mason said. “It’s also important to me to serve those who come from underprivileged backgrounds and make sure they have equal opportunities as everyone else.”
While continuing her graduate studies in business and applying her new learned skills at the Innevation Center, Mason shared advice for other female students at the College of Business.
“I truly believe the business world needs more women in it, even though it may be challenging in that type of environment,” Mason said. “The contributions women have been making in business are immeasurable; overall, diversity is key to success, and we all need each other at the end of the day.”
Mason also encouraged first-generation students to persevere through the challenges they may face during their college journey.
“Never be afraid to take that leap and dare to become bigger than your wildest dreams,” she said. “Don’t be scared to take on the most difficult of challenges, because sometimes it can be the most rewarding and beneficial thing you could do for yourself or others around you.”
Students interested in pursuing a career in business or entrepreneurship are invited to the inaugural Reno Startup Week from Sept. 25-29. The event, which is hosted in collaboration with the Innevation Center, the Nevada Small Business Development Center, EDAWN and other organizations in the community, will bring together founders, innovators, dreamers, makers and business owners to celebrate entrepreneurship in Northern Nevada. For further information on the Reno Startup Week, please email Reno Startup Week.