Student Spotlight

Crummer PMBA Student Applies Crummer Knowledge to Impact Her Community

Terry Castillo, Osceola County School Board District 1 representative, is leveraging her Crummer education to enhance her data-driven, empathetic approach to leadership.

Terry Castillo always aspired to run for public office.

Spending lots of time with her grandmother in the Dominican Republic growing up, she saw first-hand how she impacted her community through public service.

“She owned a school and was part of her community organization (similar to an HOA),” said Castillo. “She was also very involved politically with the Reformist Party.”

Taking inspiration from her grandmother, Castillo always believed government officials had the ability to improve the lives of their constituents with empathetic and compassionate leadership.

When she saw a seat open up on the School Board in her home county of Osceola in late 2017, she wasn’t planning to make her political debut at the time (she was originally planning to wait until her daughter left for college), but like many things in life, it was the opportunity that was there, so she went for it.

“I decided to run and put my name out there,” said Castillo.

Taking a true boots-to-the-ground approach, Castillo started canvassing neighborhoods, attending as many networking events as she could, and developing a data-driven strategy to see where was most effective to visit and campaign.

“It was a very grassroots process; it was a very small campaign,” said Castillo.

Garnering effort support from her community, Castillo was able to win the election for Osceola County School Board District 1 seat.

During her time serving on the school board, there was no issue more impactful and salient than guiding her district through school re-openings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rather quickly, Castillo noticed it was the school board that became the center of all the conversation on the process of how to reopen the schools.

“I figured by the time it got to us making a decision, there would be more clear guidance on what we should do,” said Castillo. “It was definitely a time where I had to step up in my leadership and really get level-headed about what I was going to do.”

Balancing her full-time job, Professional MBA classes in the evening, and being a mother, Castillo worked side-by-side with her fellow school board members and local health leaders to craft a re-opening plan. All the while, she was diligently listening to the concerns of her constituents.

Ultimately, the district came up with the “Ready. Set. Start Smart!” plan, a strong focus on a safe return to face-to-face learning, with two other alternatives involving digital learning that gave parents choices regarding what was best for their family.

The plan was so detailed and innovative, it ended up being used across the state as a model plan for school re-openings.

Core Professional MBA classes like Organizational Behavior & Leadership, Business Strategy, and Design Thinking that are taken early on in the program proved invaluable for Castillo throughout the process of designing the reopening plan. As a leader who prides herself on emotional intelligence and data-driven decisions, these courses served as a foundation to her approach when making tough decisions.

“Being able to understand the data better became exceptionally invaluable and being able to interpret that data was very important,” said Castillo.

It isn’t just those courses she took early on that she is using in her role as a school board official. Finance, accounting, quantitative business analytics, and more are all useful as she has a better grasp of the Osceola County Strategic Plan.

“I like to be able to understand how money is allocated and where it is going, so those courses were very important,” she said.

Perhaps the most important part of her Crummer experience is the vast network it provides as she looks to continue her career in public service.

“I was suggested to go to Crummer from another local leader (Major Jake Ruiz at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office),” said Castillo. “He really appreciated the personal touch that Crummer gave us, the importance of the network, and how everything we learn in class we can use immediately. I got proof of that immediately after starting the program.”

With a few semesters to go until graduation, Castillo will be concentrating in entrepreneurship related courses and developing her leadership skills even more.

Focused on being the best School Board leader she can be, Castillo envisions her career in public service to continue well into the future.

“I am still thinking about what the right place is for someone with my skillset, I don’t want to say I’m running for public office just to do it. I want to make sure I am intentional and doing something I am effective in. I definitely want to continue with public office,” said Castillo.