From Criminal Justice to Calvin Klein

A degree in criminal justice is perhaps an unusual background for a career in retail marketing, but like so many LAS graduates, Josefina Aguayo (‘98 criminology, law and justice), national director for women’s shoes for Macy’s Inc., understands that a liberal arts and sciences degree provides you with nearly-unlimited choices. “I am still interested in criminal investigation, that will never change, but the foundational skills and varied interests I acquired as an undergraduate at UIC meant that I was equipped to choose from a wide range of career options,” she said. “You do a lot of writing and research as an LAS student, and that absolutely prepares you for pretty much anything. 

Josefina Aguayo

Josefina Aguayo. Photo courtesy of Aguayo

A curious mind combined with an entrepreneurial spirit and natural ability to identify and maximize opportunities allowed Aguayo to make the most of every situation in which she found herself. 

Since graduating from UIC, has built a highly successful and satisfying career in business. Over the past seven years, Aguayo has moved from manager for Macy’s ready-to-wear and lease divisions to a national director for women’s shoes, responsible for marketing strategy for the retail giant’s 800 stores.

Motivated by the CLJ department’s high rankings in U.S. News and World Report, Aguayo transferred to UIC from Purdue University. “It was the best move I could have made,” she said. “My classes were amazing and I was learning so much. At the same time I was a student worker in the Chancellor’s office, assisting with development efforts. I learned about sponsorships, proposal writing, prospecting. That student job was really the springboard to my business career.”

After graduation, she worked as a fundraiser for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and began volunteering with the Chicago Urban League. “I was attending the young professional chapter for networking purposes and got deeply involved as the community service chair, growing some amazing programs and doing service work in the city,” she said. “I also built some beneficial relationships that would not otherwise have happened.”

In 2005, Aguayo attended the national Urban League conference and met the publisher of UL’s new venture, Urban Influence Magazine. The two Chicago natives hit it off and she was hired as a director of advertising sales.

“That eventually parlayed into where I am today,” Aguayo said, explaining that by 2006 she felt ready to make her next career-and-life move and relocate to New York. “I was almost 30 years old at the time and was ready professionally and personally. I thought that if I was going to start over and tackle New York, it had to be with a stable company and one that allows a woman of color to move up. I interviewed with Macy’s and one other company and Macy’s made the first offer and moved me out here.”

“I’ve had some great mentors in Macy’s management who sat down with me and worked to identify my skill sets, interests, and passions and tap into those in mutually-beneficial ways,” she said. “Working for a company that takes such a proactive approach with their talent is great and I’m really thankful for that supportive environment.

“I have had to be aggressive and ask the right questions and build the right relationships, develop and protect my networks,” she continued. “That is a give-and-take endeavor. Now there are younger people in my network who look to me for opportunities. I am honored to be part of that cycle. These are all things you must do if you are going to succeed.

“New York has been very good to me, but when I think about what’s next, I would like to live and work in Europe,” said Aguayo, noting that she has always had a hunger for travel. “There are a few major projects and accomplishments with Macy’s that I’d still like to knock down, but after that, I’m ready to take on the world.”