National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 20 Years of Latina Leadership Search
Member Login
NHLI Home Page
About NHLIProgramsConferencesAlumnaeSponsors
2006 LEC DallasLEC Indianapolis2008 Seattle participants

NHLI Latina Empowerment Conferences

State Farm Insurance Companies

southwest logo

Thanks to the
Latina Empowerment Conference's Sponsors

Ft. Worth, Texas

Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 8:00 am – 4 pm
Hilton Fort Worth, 815 Main Street, Ft. Worth, TX 76102

Click here to download a pdf with all the Ft. Worth information.

The Ft. Worth Latina Empowerment Conference is co-sponsored by Southwest Airlines.


8:00 am Registration & Networking Breakfast
9:00 Welcome Remarks from Sponsors
9:20 Overview of Latinas in the US and NHLI
9:50 Seven Demands of Leadership (Gallup Org.)
11:15 Break
11:30 Practical Genius
12:45 pm Lunch & Panel –
Latinas Sharing their Secrets of Success

Concurrent Workshops:

Managing Your Money and Building Wealth by Marianne Leal, State Farm Insurance Companies

Achieving Results through Personal Accountability by Linda Valdes Thompson, Executive Vice President of Administration, DFW Airport

3:45 Closing Remarks
4:00 Event Ends

Panelists (click on name to view bio)

Lupita Colmenero, Publisher and Co-Founder, El Hispano News
Veronica Mendoza, Agent, State Farm Insurance Companies
Laura Nieto, Sr. Manager, Community Affairs & Grassroots, Southwest Airlines
Marisa Treviño,
Syndicated journalist, local public radio commentator, and Publisher of


Zulma X. Barrios, Senior Advisor, Gallup University
Marianne Leal, Agent, State Farm Insurance Companies
Cristina López, President, National Hispana Leadership Institute
Gina Rudan, President, Genuine Insights
Linda Valdes Thompson, Executive Vice President of Administration, DFW Airport

Zulma Barrios Zulma X. Barrios is a native of El Salvador. She is the Senior Advisor for Gallup University whose efforts are dedicated towards a better understanding of Multiculturalism as it relates to Insurance Companies and community-based non-profit organizations. Zulma worked in the International insurance arena for 27 years, earning many awards of excellence. Sheholds the distinction of being the first woman General Manager for the Mutual of Omaha Companies. She is a certified Registered Health Underwriter. In January 1994, Zulma was recruited by the Gallup Organization. As Vice President of Women and Diversity Leadership for Gallup University, she helped individuals develop their leadership talents for the benefit of their companies, organizations, and communities. In 2005, her role with the Office of the Governor of the State of Nebraska was to assist in the development of Latino leadership. She sits on several national boards, and was instrumental in the creation of the National African-American Women’s Leadership Institute and the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute.
Zulma Barrios

Lupita Colmenero, is the publisher and co-founder of El Hispano News, a Spanish language weekly newspaper, serving the Dallas/Fort Worth Hispanic community for the past 20 years. The decision to publish a Hispanic newspaper was made to reach out to, and empower and give a voice to a community that often goes unheard. It was out of this feeling of perseverance that Lupita came to the United States; in January 1985, to search for her missing brother, Joel Colmenero Garcia. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico. She worked several jobs from baby sitting to flipping burgers at McDonald’s just to make ends meet; despite having earned the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree in Social Work back in Mexico.

El Hispano News started with a mere distribution of 5,000 copies supported solely by one local advertiser. Lupita fulfilled several roles at the newspaper, from selling advertising, graphic designing, writing copy to distributing newspapers; anything to get the newspaper off the ground. Her perseverance paid off; El Hispano News, currently, has a distribution of 35,000 weekly with more than $1,500,000 in advertising sales; and supported by both local and national advertisers. By 1995, she co-founded Channel 19, a local TV station with local programming, where she worked as an anchorwoman for one year, and, just one year later, in 1996, she co-produced and played the title character in the movie, La Conexion Cubana, filmed in Mexico City; which was critically acclaimed.

In 2002, she was elected Secretary of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP); of which El Hispano News has been a member for more than 17 years, and, in 2004, she co-produced and starred in another movie, Tiempo Para Morir, that was selected to participate in the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival of May 2005. One year later, in March of 2005, Lupita was elected President of NAHP during its 20th annual Convention in Philadelphia. She is the first woman to serve in this position in the 25 year history of NAHP. True to her spirit, in her acceptance speech, she said, “As the NAHP Inc. President, I will be the champion of minority-owned businesses. It is our top priority to provide Hispanic publications with the training and mentorship needed to succeed in a highly competitive market”.

Lupita has served on several non-profit boards of directors, including Jonathans Place”, a 24-hour emergency shelter home for abandoned, abused and neglected kids, and board member of the GDHCC. In 2006, Lupita founded the Parents Step Ahead program, to “recognize, educate, enable and empower parents to take a proactive role in the educational and personal development of their children.” Parents Step Ahead is 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization since April, 2008. She is currently the chair of this organization that is celebrating its 5th anniversary in 2010.

However, despite all her achievements, she says her greatest accomplishments are her children, Eileen M. Suarez a graduate from Texas A&M and Marcos N. Suarez, Jr, who is going to college to study corporate lawn in the summer of 2010.

  Marianne Leal, Agent, State Farm Insurance Companies
Veronica Mendoza

Veronica Mendoza was born in El Paso, Texas and raised in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, Mexico.  Veronica returned to the United States at age 17 to attend the University of Texas at El Paso, where she earned a double degree in Economics and Marketing while also learning English as a second language.  After graduation, Veronica worked for three years in corporate sales before beginning her career with State Farm Insurance Companies.  She spent three years in management at State Farm’s Operations Center in El Paso, TX before moving to Austin, TX where she worked at the Regional Headquarters in the capacity of Underwriter.

In 2007, Veronica and her son, Andrew, moved to Fort Worth, TX where she opened her own State Farm Agency in Haltom City, TX.  Veronica proudly serves the insurance and financial planning needs of a predominantly Hispanic-client base in her neighborhood while also serving as a member of the community through her involvement and participation in local church, school and community events.   Veronica’s agency has experienced continuous growth and she has been recognized as one of the top State Farm agents in the area for her levels of production.  In her spare time, Veronica enjoys spending time with her family, home improvement projects and traveling.

Laura Nieto

Laura S. Nieto serves as Senior Manager of Community Affairs & Grassroots at Southwest Airlines, the nation's largest domestic carrier.  She has a passion for and expertise in community outreach to diverse audiences.  Ms. Nieto has formed a powerful team of Community Affairs & Grassroots Managers who develop strategic relationships with key constituencies and national leaders with various segment audiences including the Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Women, and GLBT communities. This year alone, she and her team have generated more than 20 million lasting impressions among diverse audiences to build brand awareness. Their work ensures that Southwest Airlines is a trusted and valued partner in the communities it serves and confirms its commitment to championing causes that matter most in the daily lives of its Customers. 

Ms. Nieto has lead Southwest’s multicultural marketing, advertising, promotional and community outreach initiatives and has laid the foundation for its positioning within diverse communities.  Under her leadership, the airline has been recognized as an industry leader and outstanding corporate citizen due to its innovative Hispanic marketing initiatives and numerous awards and accolades for Corporate Commitment, Community Outreach, and Diversity & Inclusion. 

A Texas native, Ms. Nieto graduated from Texas Tech University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in public relations.  She currently resides in Dallas, Texas with her husband Ruben and 4-year old daughter, Sobie.

Gina Amaro Rudan

Gina Rudan is the founder and President of Genuine Insights Inc. a contemporary leadership development personal asset management whose mission is to leverage the genius within every individual. Gina recently left her corporate cocoon to blossom as an entrepreneur and as a result of moving from vision to venture was also awarded last year the 2009 March of Dimes Woman Living to the Fullest Award and recently was selected as one of Poder Magazine's top “20 Under 40” Hispanics within the United States.

Gina has been a guest lecturer, trainer and keynote speaker for numerous organizations including: Fannie Mae, Booz Allen Hamilton, Merck Co., BET Network, the Interpublic Group, The US Department of Agriculture, The National Hispana Leadership Institute, the Stern School of Business at New York University, and for the Endeavor Organization. As part of her commitment to spreading Genius, Gina is also the curator of TEDx MIA, an independent movement to spread genius in southern Florida affiliated with Before launching her own genius development practice, Gina has held executive positions at Fortune 500 companies including Avon Products Inc. and PR Newswire, where she was responsible for spearheading multicultural and international marketing efforts.

A native New Yorker, Gina graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English Literature from Binghamton University and is a National Urban Fellow holding a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College in New York City. Gina is a member of Unity on the Bay in Miami and her passions include international travel, scuba diving and mermaids.

Marisa Treviño

Marisa Treviño is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance journalist and the publisher/founder of the blog where she takes the news of the day that impacts the Latino community and adds her perspective — with the goal of creating dialogue across communities and borders.

Focusing her writings on Latino and social justice issues pertaining to education, immigration, women and families, Marisa is a contributing columnist with Hispanic Link News service, as well as, an occasional commentator at the Dallas public radio station, KERA.

Her columns have appeared in USA Today, and syndicated across the country in both English and Spanish.

Aside from her blog writings and opinion columns, Marisa is an accomplished playwright.

Nina Vaca

Nina Vaca, founded Pinnacle in 1996 as an information technology services provider to the Fortune 500. Today, the company’s client base includes industry leaders in the telecommunications, financial services, health care, technology, consumer products and business process outsourcing sectors. Pinnacle provides IT-enabled solutions in the growing area of vendor management via a proprietary solution that captures all aspects of the client-vendor relationship. Pinnacle also provides IT staff augmentation services, professional staffing, and payrolling services.

Under Ms. Vaca’s leadership, Pinnacle has become the second fastest growing firm in a $20 billion dollar industry, and now includes approximately 3,000 consultants across 45 states. Pinnacle is one of the most widely recognized and honored companies nationwide, garnering over 38 national and local awards over the past 4 years including consecutive top rankings in the Inc. 500 and Staffing Industry Report.

A two-time winner of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious Business Woman of the Year Award, Ms. Vaca has also appeared in Fast Company Magazine as one of the Top 25 Women Business Builders in the country. In addition, she was recently selected as one of the 50 Most Important Hispanics in Business & Technology by Hispanic Engineering & Technology Magazine and one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in America by Latino Leaders Magazine. In 2005, she received the coveted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Technology and Communications for the Southwest Region.

Ms. Vaca has represented the U.S. in numerous transatlantic leadership forums, including through the German Marshall Memorial Fellow program, as a member of the British-American Project, and most recently, at the invitation of Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. She has also attended Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management, Advanced Management Education Program, Dartmouth College – Amos Tuck School of Business Executive Program, and Harvard Business School – Corporate Governance Executive Program.She is a member of the Dallas Summit and Youth President’s Organization (YPO).

She is a graduate of Texas State University with a B.A. in Speech Communications and Business Administration where she was honored as the youngest Distinguished Alumna in university history. Vaca also holds a Doctor of Laws “Honoris Causa” from Northwood University.

Linda Valdes Thompson

Linda Valdes Thompson is the Executive Vice President of Administration and Diversity at DFW International Airport. In her role, she has responsibility for Human Resources, Procurement and Materials Management, Risk Management, Small & Emerging Business, and Internal Communication and Diversity. Ms. Thompson enjoys her work at DFW because it allows her to interface with two of the most important components of organizational success: the workforce and suppliers.

Throughout her professional career, Ms. Thompson has acquired more than 20 years of managerial and executive experience in Human Resources for such companies as Levi Strauss, Hasbro, Baxter Health Care and Fruit of the Loom. She has a bachelor’s in business administration from Midwestern State University and a master''s in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. She is also a Certified Compensation Professional, a Certified Benefit Professional, a Certified Global Remuneration Professional, and a Certified Senior Human Resources professional.

Ms. Thompson is a native Texan, is married and has one daughter.

Donate Today!

Follow NHLI on
Twitter and Facebook

Bookmark and Share