Alex Sevilla

Meet our Deans: Alex Sevilla

You already know that the Warrington College of Business is the top business school in the state and one of the best in the nation and world, but do you know the leaders that have guided us to such success and recognition? In our Meet the Deans series, we introduce you to the seven deans across the Warrington College of Business, Hough Graduate School of Business, Heavener School of Business and Fisher School of Accounting that lay the foundation for our success.

Alex Sevilla is the Associate Dean and Director of the Heavener School of Business at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business. Sevilla partners with the Heavener team to shape and support the Heavener experience for all stakeholders, including students, faculty, Warrington and UF colleagues, corporate recruiters, alumni, donors and others connected with the school. The team aspires to successfully manage the School’s operations and resources, while fueling innovation and change to strengthen the Heavener experience and advance the School’s reputation. He has been in his role at Heavener for two years and with the Warrington College for 20 years, starting at UF MBA in 1998. Originally from Nicaragua, he grew up in Miami, Florida and completed both his BBA in Marketing and his MBA at the University of Miami. He received his Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) from Pepperdine University.


Q: When did you know that you wanted to be involved in higher education, and why was that an interesting option for you?

Sevilla: “When I first graduated with my BBA, I took a job in marketing and sales. I enjoyed the work, but didn’t love it. I always had an interest in learning and helping others, and so after talking with family and mentors, I decided to pursue a career as a teacher. I started a master’s degree in elementary education at the University of Miami (UM). Since I wasn’t eager to amass student loan debt, I came up with a bold plan: I’d quit my job in sales and take a position at UM. This allowed me to take advantage of the free employee tuition benefit and also gain some experience in the field of education. I was fortunate to find a position in UM’s MBA Programs Office. My plan was to work there for two years, complete my graduate degree, and start my new career as a teacher.

A year into my experience at UM, I made a life changing discovery. During that year, I reflected on my experiences: what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what truly inspired me. I spoke to many people about my thoughts and aspirations. I learned my true passion lived within the intersection of education and strategy; helping others and helping advance business objectives; delivering change and delivering results. Once I made this discovery, I knew I had a stronger connection to my work at UM versus my pursuit of a teaching career. This professional clarity was unlike anything I had experienced, and drove me to another bold life decision. I shifted out of my education degree and enrolled in UM’s MBA program, with the goal of pursuing a career in higher education. At UM, I worked in many areas, including admissions, marketing, student services and career development. I loved all of it, and particularly how our strategic efforts were connected to helping others change their lives for the better. It was so inspirational to me, and I felt certain I had found my career sweet spot.  That decision was almost 25 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I know this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Q: What are you most proud of that you’ve been involved with during your time at Warrington?

Sevilla: “There are two things I’m most proud of. First, from a strategy standpoint, I’m proud of the work our teams have delivered that have a lasting legacy. During my time with the UF MBA programs, I’m proud of our team’s contributions to build new programs, increase enrollment and advance the reputation of UF MBA globally. In the Heavener School, I’m proud of the path we’ve forged to advance the four pillars of the Heavener experience: academic rigor, career development, international studies and leadership. Our team has rallied around these pillars in order to reach more students, in more meaningful ways, and to aspire to deliver profound growth and transformation.

Second, from an emotional standpoint, there’s no way to aggregate the numerous positive feelings associated from helping students over the years. Every time I have a conversation with a student or graduate about how we’ve helped them, I’m filled with a sense of accomplishment and pride. It’s those micro-moments where you know you’ve made a real difference in someone’s life – that’s where it all comes together.

The work we do matters, and it’s more than just classes, learning and the two-dimensional piece of paper they get from UF at the end [diploma]. On our best days, we help students discover who they are intended to be. They graduate with confidence around their emerging capabilities, enabling them to make better contributions to the professional and personal communities they are a part of. I’m so proud of our aspiration to help Gators become strong, centered and determined contributors to society.”

Q: What goal do you have for students pursuing a degree at the Heavener School of Business? What do you most hope they get out of their time here?

Sevilla: “In some ways, college doesn’t fully prepare students for life after graduation. Academics are structured, organized and straightforward. You take classes, follow a syllabus and deliver results against a specific set of well-defined goals. Life is unstructured, ambiguous and rarely linear. One of our main opportunities within the Heavener School is to help our students prepare for, and ultimately thrive in, life beyond UF. If we can train students to have the same voracity about lifetime learning and personal development in an often unstructured world, we’ve given them a skill set that will serve them far beyond graduation.

When I’m with students, I tell them to experience as much as possible beyond the boundaries of what is required and their pre-defined comfort zone. Be active, not passive. When students do this, they learn about themselves, who they are, what they are good (or not good) at, and what really matters to them. They experience something, and then they learn, evolve and pivot toward their future. Active choices create the pathway to discovering your true personal and professional passions. Passive choices create roadblocks to discovering these pathways. If they are successful in making active choices that lead to unique growth experiences, when they graduate, they will have a sense of who they are and how they can best represent themselves in the world.”

Q: If you didn’t decide to pursue a career in higher education, what would you do instead?

Sevilla: “I’d love to be a professional basketball player, but I’d need to be a little taller and a lot better. I’d also love to be a singer-songwriter that cranked out a few great hits, the kind of songs best played amongst your closest friends that make you sing them out loud and remember just how special life is.

OK, so much more realistically, if I weren’t in higher education, I’d find a similar platform to help people be the best version of themselves and find greater satisfaction in the world around them. Given my background and my professional passions, I’d imagine this would involve teaching leadership, and more specifically, emergent leadership for young professionals. In other words, I’d want to do much of what I‘m honored to have the opportunity to do here in the Heavener School, but perhaps on a broader scale.”

Q: What can we find you doing outside of work or on the weekend?

Sevilla: “I enjoy staying active – running, hiking, biking, swimming, basketball and racquetball. I also like playing acoustic guitar, either doing my best to replicate some of my favorite songs or writing my own music. I really enjoy the creative outlet of songwriting, and it helps me create a narrative for my life story.

I spend as much time as I can my family – my wife Yesi and our two children Lauren (19) and David (17). They are my ‘everything’ and my clear energy source. Whether it is weekend beach fun, mountain getaways or adventures outside of the U.S., we love to travel together. But most of our biggest laughs and most cherished moments occur in the beauty of day-to-day life. I am who I am today because of these incredible people.

I also enjoy time with friends, trying new things and recharging my batteries, which can take the form of reading, watching movies or sports, and attending live music or sporting events (especially Gator games….Go Gators)!”

Q: What’s a fact about you that might surprise other people?

Sevilla: “I have survived two major natural disasters in my lifetime. First, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Nicaragua in 1972 when I was a baby. Given the devastation, we were fortunate to leave and return to the U.S., where we settled in Miami, Florida. I lived in Miami throughout my childhood and into college, where I attended the University of Miami. It was during my college years where I also survived a Category 5 hurricane (Andrew) in 1992. I was living on my own at the time but spent the hurricane with my family in the house I grew up in. This was a profound life experience for me and one I felt fortunate to survive. On some level, these experiences provided me with the clarity to live each day fully and to value just how fragile and special our lives are.”

Q: Is there anything else you’d like the Warrington community to know about you that we didn’t ask about?

Sevilla: “I’m honored to be one of the many, many people who truly care about our students and want to make their experience at the Heavener School and Warrington a transformational one. This is a wonderful place filled with faculty and staff that love what they do and work tirelessly to help our students and one another. I feel fortunate to be part of such a special community.”