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Elizabeth Larios, Economic Development

UCO grad connects and builds relationships to strengthen her community

Elizabeth Larios had high aspirations from a young age. Her expert leadership skills and determination are what lead her to the University of Central Oklahoma and a successful career in economic development and connecting businesses to financial resources.

The UCO graduate, along with her brother, was a part of the first generation in her family to pursue higher education and didn’t know much about the process. Young Larios was sure of one thing: extracurricular activities in school didn’t cost extra money and looked good on college applications. So naturally, she joined every club she could, eventually being in 16 clubs and president of six of them.

Because of her outstanding involvement, Larios received scholarship offers from many different universities. She went to the University of Oklahoma to sign her offer to attend, but once on campus, she realized OU wasn’t for her.

“On the [OU] campus, everyone was on a mission to get somewhere, I couldn’t even stop someone to ask for directions on this huge campus. I was very overwhelmed and knew the environment wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be,” Larios said.

Not knowing where to go from here, Larios called the Rose State College recruiter she’d spoken to previously to help decipher her offers. She decided to pursue her associate degree in general business/commerce at Rose as a first step.

Once at Rose State, it wasn’t long before Larios got involved on campus, she joined and eventually became president of the student senate, which propelled her toward her goal of earning the UCO President’s Leadership Council (PLC) scholarship to the University of Central Oklahoma.

UCO and Rose State are both located in the Oklahoma City metro area, meaning many students transfer to Central after earning their associate’s degree at Rose. The schools made their transfer student partnership official in January 2022. This partnership gives Rose State graduates guaranteed admission to UCO once an associate’s degree is completed. The two colleges wanted to give students a seamless transition and more opportunities to complete their higher education journey.

Larios took advantage of this relationship, worked hard for the leadership scholarship, and had a smooth transition from the community college to a university atmosphere. She joined PLC at UCO where she had a regular class, volunteered her time, and learned to build relationships across campus. There, she found a support system, her place to get involved, and friends she still keeps in touch with today.

“I went to UCO because of the relationship with Rose State and the leadership scholarship,” she said. “There were people who transferred from Rose State to UCO and I got to spend four years of school with them, which was special.”

After graduating from UCO with a degree in international business, Larios pursued her master’s degree at UCO, again because of the low cost and the connections she had already built. She worked at The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City while pursuing a Master of Public Administration/Organizational Management and continued her work after graduation.

“UCO helped me develop skills I use every day in my career,” she said.

Now Larios uses her degrees to help small businesses both locally and internationally in her role as a program manager with gener8or, an organization that connects start-up businesses with investors and accelerates their business relationships. She still calls on those connections made at UCO for their expertise in a variety of areas. Larios hasn’t given up her leadership spirit and is a bonafide leader in the community. She was appointed to the Oklahoma State Tourism Commission, the Metropolitan Library System Commission, and a board member of LA29.

“I wouldn’t be in these positions today if it weren’t for the clubs and communities I found at UCO,” She said. “I learned the importance of making connections with people, regardless of party and we were challenged to continue to build those relationships.”

Larios said her time at UCO in PLC taught her important lessons about how to lead and what makes a good leader.

“I learned the value of leadership and also that it’s hard and you aren’t going to make everyone happy,” she said. “It’s easier to give grace to those who lead and if you don’t like what’s going on, get involved and change it.”


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