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Mario Avila

Mario Avila

Vanderbilt MBA 2012

— Concentration in Finance

CEO at Emerge Financial Wellness; Founder & CEO at Contigo Financial; Chairman at Bank On Music City

Playing for Keeps

Footballer tackles challenge of starting a company

Defensive tackles rarely get to touch the football. But Mario Avila, who played that position for Dartmouth College, was a very visible and valuable player off the field.

“Before Owen,” Mario says, he was part of the talent management team with Campbell & Company, a national consulting firm headquartered in Chicago focusing on nonprofit clients. Outside of work, he served on the junior board of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and volunteered with various other nonprofits.

But Mario’s interest in “microfinance and the way it can help get people out of poverty” made him eager to build his own business. Business school seemed like a necessary step. “I needed to find a place that could fulfill my need for a strong business educational base as well as an ability to get hands-on experience in the field of microfinance,” says Mario, who grew up in Mexico and holds dual citizenship there and in the US. “I had an idea for a business but Owen has given me the opportunity to complete that puzzle by learning day-to-day.”

In addition to providing dynamic classes like Professor Jim Schorr’s course on social entrepreneurship, Vanderbilt introduced Mario to classmates that have become part of his “Owen family” — and part of the team that helped him launch Contigo Financial. He enlisted a dozen classmates to work on various projects for his venture. “They helped create it with me,” he says.