Advocates for Change and Community Service
Two alumnae co-found a social purpose company in San Antonio.
September 20, 2023
September 20, 2023
Alumni Anita Fernández ’06 and Olivia Travieso ’07 have embarked on an extraordinary journey that began on campus and has brought them to the heart of San Antonio’s communities as co-founders of OCI Group, a consulting firm dedicated to social impact. Their story is a testament to the transformative power of education, unwavering determination, and a deep commitment to serving others.
Fernández and Travieso, both San Antonio natives, met during their high school years through their participation in the National Hispanic Institute (NHI). This organization played a pivotal role in shaping their dedication to community service and empowering future leaders. As Southwestern students, they pursued their academic endeavors while wholeheartedly embracing opportunities for community involvement. Fernández was an independent studies major concentrating in Latin American studies and anthropology, worked in the Student Life office, and had a transformative study-abroad opportunity in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and DF, Mexico. Travieso was a member of the first SU class to graduate with a degree in Latin American studies, concentrating in political science. She also played on the lacrosse team all four years, worked in the Center for Career & Professional Development, and studied abroad in Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil.
“When I went to my advisors with everything I wanted to do, they figured out how to make it happen. I think that was a testament to the University exemplifying one of their core values–learning happens everywhere,” Travieso recalled. “Anita and I grew up with the value of community involvement; we value being engaged wherever you are.”
After their time at Southwestern, the pair found themselves in graduate programs at the University of Texas at Austin. Fernández continued her education at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, and Travieso studied at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and completed the Nonprofit Studies Portfolio Program through the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service. She co-founded OCI Group while still in graduate school. Fernández says she immediately used her degrees when she began working, expressing that her educational experiences were invaluable and allowed her to engage in work that directly impacted local communities. She has worked in state and local government and contributed to the development of community and public affairs during her time at the Museo Alameda, which was the largest Latino museum in the U.S. and the first formal Smithsonian affiliate outside of Washington, D.C.
Throughout their academic and work journeys, Fernández and Travieso kept up with their peers from NHI, even starting a book club focused on Latino authors with their closest friends. While discussing a book, the group began contemplating their future paths. They had received offers in different career fields, with people encouraging them to work for different companies and organizations. However, they questioned why they should scatter across the country and work separately when they could unite talents and build something locally to make an impact. This was the spark that led to the birth of OCI Group. The six co-founders are proud of the social purpose consulting firm they have created and say that positive community impact is a fundamental component of every client and project they take on.
“We take great pride in being from San Antonio and focusing on our community here,” Fernández said. “But we also represent clients from across the country, from Florida, New York, California, and internationally. We like to think of it as an ecosystem building bridges where we need to connect, but always keeping San Antonio at the heart of OCI.”
As Latina entrepreneurs, Fernandez and Travieso are breaking the mold in industries like government relations, public affairs, and public policy, where representation has historically been scarce and has long been dominated by men. Along with their work at the OCI Group, they also volunteer their time to the NHI, giving back to the organization that guided them on their path. The pair said what has made the journey truly rewarding is the opportunity to elevate representation in these fields and inspire others, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, to pursue their aspirations and take risks that challenge the status quo. They are not alone in their endeavors; their entire team and extensive network provide invaluable support, enabling them to create positive change and empower others to follow suit.
“Working alongside individuals who share the same values and philosophy as me, and then extending that connection beyond our company into the community to positively impact people’s lives, is really rewarding. Owning your own business is pretty great, too,” Travieso said.
Fernández and Travieso credit their achievements to the liberal arts education they received at Southwestern, their involvement in NHI, and their families.They also offer valuable guidance to current students, emphasizing the importance of fully embracing their four years at Southwestern. They urge students not to accept “no” as a final answer, encouraging them to take the initiative to create what they want when it doesn’t exist. Additionally, they stress the significance of extending a helping hand to fellow students as they embark on their academic journey. Collaboration and support can profoundly impact each other’s paths. This period in life is unique, providing ample room for exploration, learning from failures, and personal transformation into the individuals they aspire to become.