How an Ilitch School grad discovered a passion for supply chain management, landing her a role as a lead buying analyst for Toyota

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published by Today@Wayne

Meet Nalani Renta-Villanueva, Mike Ilitch School of Business Class of 2022, buying analyst for Toyota

From Utica to Detroit, Nalani Renta-Villaneuva has been on a journey. What was once an inconvenience in high school, educational experience became something she strove and fought for, something she knew she needed. “I went from not really caring about school to being very into education,” admitted Renta-Villaneuva. “I knew I had so much potential. When the time finally came, going to college was definitely a find-yourself moment for me.”

Even once settled at Wayne State University, Renta-Villaneuva changed her mind, “which is completely okay,” she said. “It’s a very important part; it defines, quite honestly, the rest of your life.”

A Warrior’s story that began with Renta-Villaneuva enrolling as a pre-med student and commuting to campus quickly shifted its plot and started a whole new chapter. By her second semester, she was enrolled in the Mike Ilitch School of Business. “It’s funny,” she laughed. “I realized I didn’t like blood. So, I decided to explore my options, not even necessarily intending to stay at Wayne State.”

After extensive research, Renta-Villaneuva found a field that felt like home, one where she could be hands-on, work with people and learn from professionals of different backgrounds: supply chain management. Wayne State’s program is ranked top 25 in the United States according to Gartner Research.

“On top of being an excellent program with exceptional faculty, the location allows for students to have access to and easily take advantage of countless opportunities, those that the school places right in front of you,” added Renta-Villaneuva. “Detroit is one of the best places to be in terms of exploring and finding a range of employment options.”

By the start of her second year, Renta-Villaneuva was living on campus. “I’m not a city girl,” Renta-Villaneuva admitted. “I don’t know why I was so drawn to it. It was just different. I went on several college tours and felt similarly about all of them until I toured Wayne State. It’s quiet and pleasant, even in the middle of the city. I love it.”

Not too far from Detroit, but having come quite a way since her high school days, Renta-Villaneuva is a buying analyst for Toyota. In this role, she is the sole purchaser of one very important high-dollar commodity for all of Toyota and Lexus. “I knew that wherever I ended up, I would make some sort of impact, which is what drew me to my current career,” said Renta-Villaneuva, whose hard work, determination, open-mindedness and networking skills at Wayne State led her to where she is now.

After one career-networking event and one resume-building workshop—only a couple of the many events and opportunities that Renta-Villaneuva took advantage of—she landed the interview that began her next chapter at Toyota. “The Ilitch School put opportunities in front of me; it was my job to take them,” said Renta-Villaneuva. From intern to part-time co-op to full-time employee, Renta-Villaneuva is in a field she is fascinated by and finds rewarding.

With a 4.0 GPA for her global supply chain management major and computer science minor, as well as her experience as a mentee, resident advisor, student association member, Wayne State Street Squad ambassador, and Boys and Girls Club volunteer, Renta-Villaneuva was named as one of the 2021 Mike Ilitch School of Business 25 Under 25 Winners. She also is one of eight alumni selected for Wayne State’s 2023 alumni campaign.

“If I could give any advice to current or future college students, I would say this: Be open to new opportunities and unexpected exposure; push yourself as much as you can; and go out of your comfort zone, remembering that everyone’s looks a bit different,” noted Renta-Villaneuva. “And to everyone and anyone, I would say it’s okay to not know what’s next.”

Connect with Nalani on LinkedIn.

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