Veronica Flaspoehler ’08 – My Carolina Story

For many years, a member of the GAA Board of Directors has presented a “My Carolina Story” at each of the board’s quarterly meetings, and we are sharing their stories with all of our alumni. Hark the Sound.

“I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity to do these things for and on behalf of Carolina.”

Oct. 1, 2022

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Veronica Mora Flaspoehler ’08

Thank you for having me today. My Carolina Story starts outside of N.C; outside of the United States, in Alajuela, Costa Rica. This is where I’m from, where my family is from and where I was born. When I was one year old, my father moved to the U.S. to start building the foundation of what would become our search for the American Dream. My mother, three-year-old brother and I stayed behind in Costa Rica. Three years later, our paperwork was ready and my father had saved enough money to bring us to the U.S.

I grew up in Lincolnton, NC. This is where I learned English, for those of you wondering how a girl from Costa Rica ends up sounding so Southern. With the full support and encouragement of my parents, who made education the number one priority in my life, I excelled in school. I was top of my class, played multiple varsity sports, volunteered at the local hospital and was president of several clubs in high school. Looking back, I think I was a pretty decent candidate for admissions at UNC.

Truthfully, I didn’t know the greatness of Carolina at the time. I didn’t know the difference between Carolina, Lenoir Rhyne, or App State — I just knew I had to go to college. Unfortunately, for some reason I still to this day do not understand, my guidance counselor advised me not to apply to Carolina. Luckily, however, Carolina invited me to attend a summer program called Project Uplift. If you don’t know what Project Uplift is, I encourage you to look into it and even consider supporting the program. It is a summer enrichment program designed to promote and increase access to higher education for rising high school seniors underrepresented in postsecondary education. I am forever thankful to Project Uplift: This experience convinced me that Carolina is where I wanted to be and where I belonged.

I came to Carolina as a freshman in 2004. I knew a total of two people. But after Fall Fest, I had managed to meet and exchange phone numbers and screen names with what felt like the entire freshman class. It was incredible getting to meet people from not only all over N.C., but also from all over the U.S. and the world. One thing I did wonder was why the people from N.C. thought I was from Alabama. But I will admit my southern accent was A LOT thicker at 18 years old.

I got plugged in with a number of clubs— probably too many — but one of the great things about Carolina is you can find a club for anything and anyone! I continued to meet people and build great friendships. I even had my fourth knee surgery freshman year (three in high school) and was fortunate to have a group of girlfriends that cared for me during my recovery (and my unfortunate allergic reaction to pain medication) as my parents were three hours away.

Freshman year was incredibly memorable and I would be remiss if I failed to mention the 2005 basketball national championship and rushing the football field after the win against Miami. I was actually carried while we rushed the field because I couldn’t run due to my knee surgery and my friends thought I’d be trampled! Like I mentioned, I had great friends, and they were not going to let me miss out on the Carolina experience.

Later on in college, I met a boy, the boy I would eventually marry. Our first date was actually a sort of negotiation. I overheard him say he won the basketball lottery and had tickets to an upcoming game, and I jokingly, but also seriously, asked if I could go with him. Assuming he took it lightly and had other plans for his second ticket, I didn’t think about it again. A few days later, I got a phone call and it was him. He had come up with a plan and if I agreed to go with him to the UNC Military Ball, he would give me his other basketball ticket.

That was my first introduction to the military. Jon was in ROTC, and little did I know the military would eventually become a significant part of my life.

Funny enough, I didn’t even get to go to the basketball game because it fell on the night of the announcement of senior class officer election results and I was running for Senior Class Vice President. I have a pretty awesome picture of that night I’ll have to share with the group sometime, but long story short we won. My best friend Ashley Shores and I were elected to be the 2008 senior class officers.

It was an exciting time, but I still had one additional adventure to look forward to that summer: China. In addition to majoring in economics and public policy, I was an entrepreneurship studies minor. Through the minor, we were expected to do a summer internship with a start-up and I was selected for the newly developed China study abroad/internship program. I spent 12 weeks studying and working in Beijing that summer and it changed my life. I grew academically, but more importantly my world grew culturally. I am convinced that this exciting experience abroad contributed greatly in helping me land a job, because it was always the main attraction for conversation during interviews. I was fortunate enough to secure a job fall of my senior year with Wachovia in their Internal Audit Associate program.

The rest of my senior year was on track to be the best one yet: I had a job in place and I got to work with some of my best friends on fun senior class and student government initiatives. However, spring semester a tragic event occurred, and my friend, student body president Eve Carson’s life was taken. I could probably talk all day about the things I learned from Eve but instead I want to read you one of my favorite Eve quotes that I try to embody every day: “Learn from every single being, experience and moment. What joy it is to search for lessons and goodness and enthusiasm in others.”

Fast forward to graduation. Two years later I married my Carolina sweetheart and the military became my life. We lived in Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Benning, Georgia; and Fort Bragg, N.C., where our two children (Mateo and Eliana) were eventually born.

A couple of things that come to mind when I think back to what helped me get through deployments and the loneliness that military life can bring are (1) family, but my family was far away; (2) I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to continue working for Wells Fargo remotely; and (3) it was also at this time that I got plugged back in with Carolina by serving on the Young Alumni Leadership Council. Serving on the YALC was an incredible experience and one that opened my eyes to what being an active alumna looked like.

I subsequently went on to serve on the Board of Visitors and chair our student services committee, and shortly thereafter was nominated to join ACRED, the Alumni Committee for Racial and Ethnic Diversity, where I now chair the Latino subcommittee and sit on the Carolina Latinx Center’s advisory board. I had amazing experiences and met the most impressive people, including you all. Because of Carolina I got to participate on career panels, host networking dinners with students, be a keynote speaker at the UNC Renwick awards, and I even had my first podcast experience as a guest speaker for the Women of Worth group on campus.

I am humbled and thankful for the opportunity to do these things for and on behalf of Carolina. Not only is it an honor to serve Carolina in this capacity, but I’m certain that these volunteer and board experiences prepared me for the leadership roles I would also take in my career as Chief Anti-Money Laundering Officer for Wells Fargo’s Caribbean and Latin American region and now as SVP & Control Management Director in our Corporate & Investment Bank. All these years later, even as I try to pay it forward and give back to a university that opened up so many doors for me, Carolina continues to back me.