Economics and finance grad from Ecuador hopes to help home country

4 – minute read

Andrea Santana graduated summa cum laude in December with a double major in economics and finance. As she eyes graduate school next, her long-term vision remains focused on how she can use her knowledge to benefit the future of her home country, Ecuador.


Santana was born and raised in Manta, which she described as a “small but beautiful city” on the central coast of Ecuador. Her college journey began when she started looking abroad for the right school to secure a world-class education, she said. She preferred Florida, which has a climate similar to where she grew up. After touring multiple campuses, Santana chose FGCU for its high-caliber finance and economics programs as well as access to the Bloomberg Financial Markets Lab in the Lutgert College of Business.


Santana knew since high school she wanted to study economics.


“Economics helps you understand how the world works and how the way a government allocates resources can impact a whole nation and the livelihood of its citizens,” she said. “Ecuador has an underdeveloped economy, but it has a huge potential to become a developed nation. So, I was always passionate about what could be done to make that happen, and I would love to take part in that.”

FGCU grad Andrea Santana

But what further compels her to study economics is the state of her home country. Ecuador is in the midst of immense political upheaval, surging organized crime and increasing violence.


“When I went back home for the school breaks, it was not the same environment as when I grew up,” Santana said. “People are filled with fear and no one feels safe anymore. Of course, this situation has terribly impacted our economy as people move out of the country, international investments decline and some businesses shut down in the face of uncontrollable crime.”


While at FGCU, Santana took “Economics in Development” during which she studied underdeveloped economies and the factors that continue to keep them from developing.

“Seeing my country in this state has encouraged me to be the best professional I can be and pursue higher education to eventually contribute meaningfully to the recovery of our nation and the development of our economy,” she said.


Santana’s business classes helped her understand the importance of financial markets in the economy of a developed nation and their spillover effects on other nations. This prompted her to take on finance as a double major.

FGCU grad Andrea Santana
FGCU President Aysegul Timur congratulated Andrea Santana at commencement.

As an undergraduate, Santana spent over two years working as a research assistant for Lutgert College’s Regional Economic Research Institute, which studies the business climate and provides timely economic research to benefit Southwest Florida. She worked mainly on real estate research and was responsible for developing a quarterly report on residential and commercial market activity of Southwest Florida. She also developed a Housing Affordability Index for the coastal counties and wrote the real estate section of the monthly Economic Outlook reports.

Santana also helped develop the SWFL Stock Market Index, a price-weighted index tracking the stocks of publicly traded companies headquartered in Southwest Florida.


“This was our most recent addition to our regional indicators and is different from the others because it is forward looking, as stock prices reflect expectations on future company earnings. So, the index gives us an insight to the future economic activity of the region.”


Santana’s steady march toward her goals was, as for many, temporarily halted when the pandemic hit.


“When COVID started, I was in college, away from my family in such a scary and uncertain time,” she said. “It was very difficult, but thank God, after three months I found a humanitarian flight to go back home during lockdown.”


She continued taking classes online for a year, during which time she lost some beloved family members.


“It was very hard to endure that and still try to focus on classes and projects,” said Santana.


As pandemic restrictions lifted, she returned to campus and continued her studies. She also started mentoring younger students.


“When I came to FGCU everything was so new to me. But I was blessed to have so many great mentors in my family, school and internship whose wise words and experiences have helped me to be more informed and to make better decisions,” said Santana. “As I got more experienced and knew about the resources available to succeed at FGCU, I became passionate about letting other, younger students know about them.”


Now that she’s graduated, Santana plans to find work in the economic or finance industries and attend graduate school to pursue a Ph.D. in economics or finance.

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