Four years ago, Abigail Resendiz was anxiously waiting for her best friend, Ingrid Helgestad, to return a phone call so she could share the good news she was struggling to keep secret.
The then-Bryant High School seniors had both applied for the Donaghey Scholars program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Resendiz had just received word she had been accepted into the program. Noticing that Helgestad had missed a call from the same number, Resendiz was convinced Helgestad had been accepted as well.
“I kept telling Ingrid to call the number back, but she kept saying she’d do it later,” Resendiz said. “I was going crazy because I couldn’t share the news until Ingrid found out too.”
Getting accepted into the Donaghey Scholars program was the start of a four-year journey filled with exceptional opportunities and fond memories for Resendiz, who will graduate May 11 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in international business as well as a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in management.
“I didn’t want to burden my parents with having to pay for my education,” she said. “Donaghey Scholars offered me a great opportunity with paying for my tuition, computer, living stipend, and a study abroad trip. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.”
Resendiz’s parents, Paulino and Maria, are originally from Queretaro, Mexico, and moved to Arkansas in 1995. She’s always had the travel bug and was thrilled to study abroad three times while attending UA Little Rock.
She spent one semester studying business in Barcelona, Spain. Last summer, Resendiz traveled to Germany, France, and England to study the refugee crisis in Europe. Over one spring break, she traveled to Costa Rica to study business sustainability with local businesses.
“These businesses were in the middle of nowhere, but they were thriving because of Amazon,” she said. “They were making organic soaps and shampoos in the back of their house, but they were utilizing e-commerce to export their goods to other countries.”
Altogether, Resendiz has traveled to more than 20 countries on four continents. She and a friend, Ana Galfi, have a lifelong goal of visiting all seven continents and seeing as many countries as possible. Their most recent excursion was to visit Israel and Jordan in January.
Much of Resendiz’s senior year has been devoted to Vascugenix, a medical startup company comprised of UA Little Rock student entrepreneurs who won $75,000 in prize money in recent months. Vascugenix won $30,000 at the Arkansas Governor’s Cup and $40,000 at e-Fest 2019.
As chief marketing officer, Resendiz helped created a business plan and sales strategy to bring the Speed-Torque, a medical torque device used by surgeons in minimally invasive heart surgery created by cardiologist Dwight Chrisman of Baptist Health, to market.
“Vascugenix dominated my life for nine months, but I’m really glad I did it,” she said. “The learning curve was so high at the beginning. I can say now that I have pitched in front of investors and venture capitalists. At first, we were just going to do the Governor’s Cup, but we kept getting into all these competitions. Last year, I never would have imagined that we would go so far.”
Outside of traveling, Resendiz interns at the Arkansas District Export Council, a nonprofit organization working to increase economic development in Arkansas through increasing exports.
This summer, Resendiz will intern with a Little Rock company that is partnering with Facebook. The internship is part of Career Connections, a new career development program for college students launched by Facebook. Over the past semester, Resendiz had received training in digital marketing, social media analytics, community management, and business tools. She will put those skills to use in an internship with one of 27 local businesses partnering with Facebook.
Though she was considering several post-graduation options, the clear winner for Resendiz is a full scholarship from the Global Markets, Local Creatives program from the European Union, which will allow her to earn two master’s degrees while studying at three different universities in Europe. Resendiz was one of only 22 scholarship recipients from more than 975 applications. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and healthcare and comes with a living and travel stipend.
In the fall, Resendiz will move to Scotland to spend her first semester at the University of Glasgow. She will study at the University of Barcelona during the second semester and finish out her second year at the University of Göttingen in Germany. At the end of her program, Resendiz will have master’s degrees in global markets and economic development.
“This was the most interesting way for me to do a master’s degree program and live abroad,” Resendiz said. “I want to live and work abroad for a few years before coming back to the U.S. Eventually, I want to work for the United Nations in economic development and international relations or an organization that has a social cause behind it like Winrock International or Heifer International.”
Photos by Benjamin Krain