Markel spending time in Downtown Buffalo.

Markel’s Bio

  • Major: Business administration (marketing)
  • Hometown: Dunkirk, New York

Business major and EOP student Markel Vega doesn’t sit around waiting for life to happen.

By the time he enrolled at UB, Markel had already been running his own business — Inov, which develops innovative virtual tools for e-commerce sites — for years. No surprise that one of his mottoes is “The early bird catches the worm.”

Because he likes doing things that people don’t hear about every day, and because health care was the only profession that seemed viable in his hometown, Markel came to UB to study nuclear medicine technology (NMT). His plan was to spend several years building up a good nest egg, then start a new career in business, his true calling. But just one UB marketing class changed everything and raised the question: Why wait?

UB changes everything

The class was with adjunct instructor Marc Adler, who opened Markel’s eyes to the vast opportunities in the world of business. “When we were getting my classes together for spring, I was actually fighting to be in that class. He’s just a great guy. That’s where I started the transition.”

“There are so many programs, so many things to get involved in — you’re just given a bunch of Legos, and you can build them any way you want.”

He also took part in the UB Elevator Pitch Competition so he could compare his knowledge and skills with those of other UB students.

Markel — the not-yet-even-a-business-major — and his team tied for first place.

Once he decided to make the switch, the abundance of resources at his disposal made the transition to business easy.

“You can do whatever you want, almost. There are great people here to advise you. All the pieces are here; you just have to have the initiative and the drive to take advantage of it.”

Markel being Markel, he didn’t stop at classes. He continued advancing his private company and now employs programmers around the world. He started his own student club: Biz Buzz, which educates students on investing, “letting them know that there are things you can do with your money to actually make some more money.”

We’re all in this together

Markel’s UB experience started with the three-week EOP summer program, which he says was the best introduction. “They want you to get in the mindset that you need to focus on college and it’s not all about the fun. And when I came here, I saw how nice it was — there’s a lake in the middle of campus, and the architecture. And I met cool people. I met great advisors. Everyone here seemed to have a spirit around them that they want to help out, that they have your best interests in mind.”

Those EOP advisors also helped him get a great summer internship at the iSchool Inclusion Institute of Information Sciences (i3) in Pittsburgh, which prepared him for a yearlong research project with teammates around the nation. Thanks to Skype and Asana, they can work together anytime, anywhere, and next summer, they’ll return to Pittsburgh to present their results together.

Yet another notable UB experience happened because of Judith George, his math teacher. Although Markel was in the top 10 percent of his graduating high school class, he didn’t really have a strong math background. “I looked at it as a huge obstacle that I was going to have to get through. I was just trying my hardest, and she really helped me through it. She actually sat there after office hours with me and gave me things to do. It was one of those lasting experiences. She was really supportive,” he says.

“I believe everything happens for a reason. Once you realize that, that’s when you start to really be able to live. Because you don’t dwell on things. So that’s why I think of everything as something that’s going to make me a better person down the road. I don’t know how then, but hindsight is 20/20.”

Good taste around so many corners

Chef preparing food at C3

Chef preparing food at C3.

One of Markel’s favorite things about UB — something you definitely won’t hear about a lot of schools — is the food, especially the cutting-edge and eco-friendly Crossroads Culinary Center (C3). He even changed dorms just to be closer to C3. While he always heads for the pasta, he has discovered new favorites to love among its nine themed stations, too, in particular the Indian chickpea dish chana masala.

When he can’t get to C3, he goes to Bert’s in Talbert Hall — so often that for a while they had a sandwich named after his regular special request: the Vega Special, a sandwich or wrap that’s half tuna, half turkey.

Buffalo’s best, right under your nose

In UB’s North and South campuses, Markel has found the best of two different worlds. “North Campus is like a haven, and South Campus is a prestigious old-style kind of architecture. I like the differences. You can change it if you want, go old-style or come up to a technology haven.”

And South also offers easy access to Downtown Buffalo. After the quick UB Stampede bus ride to the Main Street campus, Markel jumps on the subway and zips downtown. “Usually I try to find a café, whether it’s Caffe Aroma or SPoT coffee,” he says. “I love going off campus, especially during the winter, down where the ice skating rink is in front of Fountain Plaza. I just like being down there watching everyone having a great time. I like exploring.”

Making Markel perfectly suited to UB.

Image of downtown Buffalo

Last updated: March 13, 2014 11:10 am EST