National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 27 Years of Latina Leadership  

Class of 2002 at Harvard

Executive Leadership Program

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Sponsored By:

Anheuser Bush


Center for Creative Leadership


Miller Coors




Graduates of the Institute

Class of 2002



Maria Alfaro-Lopez is Chief of the Forfeiture Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in Detroit, Michigan. Ms. Alfaro-Lopez received her law degree from Arizona State University and her BA from Michigan State University. Her community and nonprofit activities have revolved around issues of education, urban sprawl, community policing, housing and the Latino community. She currently serves on the board of directors of Holy Redeemer School, Housing and Community Development Corporation of Wayne County, Southwest Services Group, Southwest Detroit Subzone Community Policing Board and the faith-based organization known as M.O.S.E.S. (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength).


Dolores Arce-Kaptain is Director of Program Alianzas, a collaborative effort between University of Missouri Outreach and Extension, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) and the UMKC Institute for Human Development. Ms. Arce-Kaptain received her BA from UMKC and has been Director of Alianzas since June 2001 Ms.Arce-Kaptain currently serves on one of eight state Subcommittees on Extension Diversity, Coalition of Hispanic Organizations Education Committee, University Outreach and Extension Community Connection Committee. She is a member of the National Council of La Raza, MANA de Kansas City and the Maternal and Child Health Coalition of Greater Kansas City.


Maria Anna Castro is a Financial Aid Counselor for the Metropolitan State College of Denver. She earned her BA in Speech Communication and is currently a candidate for a Masters degree in Management from Regis University. Ms. Castro was the founding president of the first Latina sorority, Pi Lambda Chi at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is passionate and committed to the success of our youth’s future. She volunteers her time with the La Raza Youth Leadership Conference, Chic Chicana, Denver Boy Scouts, Colorado Women's Cancer Control Initiative and mentors incoming freshmen to Metro State College. She is also a member of the NSHMBA and is currently serving as the President of the Latino Faculty & Staff Association at Metro State College.  Denver Mayor Wellington Webb has recognized her contributions as a leader to the community.


Guadalupe Contreras is a Hispanic Program Specialist within the Diversity Development Department for the U.S. Postal Service. She engages in special projects and activities aimed at increasing the number of Hispanics and women for both entry and management positions within the agency. She has recruited and mentored Latinos in an effort to assist and motivate them to help them achieve their employment and educational goals and aspirations. She received her Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, with a dual major in Chicano Studies and Social Sciences. She also holds a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from California State University, Hayward.

  Maria Theresa Diaz-Urbino is the President and Founder of Hispanic Strategic Consultants, Inc., serving business and government agencies in the Central Florida area. She received her MPA from the University of Central Florida (UCF). Mrs. Diaz-Urbino currently develops and maintains Orlando en Español, one of the first comprehensive municipal web sites in Spanish. She also volunteers as a Spanish teacher and has mentored students. She has been a municipal representative at the Hispanic Chamber of Central Florida, has served in the Performance Evaluation Committee for the Citrus Council of Girl Scouts and is a founding cabinet advisor of the Hispanic American Student Association at UCF.
  Ingrid Duran is the President and CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute whose mission is to develop the next generation of Latino leaders. Ms. Duran received her BS in Management from Park College. Ms. Duran serves as a Presidential Appointee on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and on the Minority Veterans Advisory Board. She is also a member of the Executive Advisory Board of the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy. Duran is affiliated with numerous organizations including: MANA: A National Latina Organization, Women in Military Service Memorial Organization, Congressional Hispanic Staff Association (past President) and the Congressional Marine Corps Association.

Norma J. Garcia is the Executive Director of Parent Institute of Quality Education, which serves seven Southern California communities, reaching 30,000 Latino parents. The goal is to prepare parents to engage the American public school system as advocates for their children. Ms. Garcia is currently working in collaboration with the Los Angeles School District (the second largest school district in the nation). Ms. Garcia has been Executive Director for Parents Institute for Quality Education for the past four years.


Dr. Mercedes D. Hernandez is the Director of the Meltzer Psychological Service Center in the Department of Psychology and a Research Scientist in the School of Public Health of The George Washington University. She teaches and provides supervision to graduate students in the clinical psychology program and conducts research on resilience in Latino adolescents. Dr. Hernandez works with public school districts in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and has been active in her community promoting educational opportunities and providing information on mental health issues to Latino youth.


Maria C. Mari, CPA, CMA, is a Professor at the School of Business of Miami-Dade Community College as well as the Coordinator of the Business Administration Honors Academy, a learning community made up of an elite group of business students that undertake a rigorous academic program. Ms. Mari was honored with the distinguished Carlos Arboleya Endowed Teach Chair for her excellence in the classroom and her commitment to students. Ms. Mari advises the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. As a practicing certified public accountant, specializing in forensic accounting, Maria Mari also maintains a private accounting practice. She is currently Secretary on the Executive Board of Teachers of Accounting at Two Year Colleges.


Annette Martinez, CLU, ChFC, is the Assistant Vice President, Diversity at State Farm®’s corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Illinois. She began her career with State Farm® in 1988 in the Life/Health Division. In June 2000, she was named California Human Resources Manager. A 1986 graduate of the University of Northern Colorado with a BA in Biological Sciences, she earned her Chartered Life Underwriting (CLU) designation in 1995 and became a Chartered Financial Consultant in 1997.


Before joining the staff of the Dallas Concilio in 1999, Cecilia McKay was a community volunteer at the Concilio. A graduate of Bernard M. Baruch College and Fordham University, she is a past President of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas, Dallas Chapter and the Women’s Center of Dallas. She founded the Breast Health Alliance of North Texas, whose mission is to increase the early detection of breast cancer. Cecilia also formed the Genesis Women’s Shelter Hispanic Outreach Advisory Committee. She is the President-elect for the Hispanic 50, a network of Hispanic women leaders. She is on the Board of the Girl Scouts, American Red Cross, March of Dimes, and the University of Dallas.


Patricia Mendoza is the Midwest Regional Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), a national organization that uses the law, community education and advocacy to protect the civil rights of Latinos in the US. She helps develop effective strategies in the areas of employment, political access, education, immigrant rights and public resource equity. She earned her B.A. at DePaul University in Chicago and her J.D. at DePaul University College of Law. She is a member of the DePaul University College of Law Advisory Council, board member of the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School of Chicago and the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum. She is a member of the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes.


Giovanna Negretti is the Executive Director of ¿Oiste?, the first and only Latino political organization in Massachusetts that promotes the principles and practice of democracy and advance the political, social and economic standing of Latinos by impacting public policy through civic education, voter mobilization, legislative lobbying and electoral training. Sher serves as the President of the National Congress of Puerto Rican Rights, Massachusetts Chapter, Regional Coordinator of the National Boricua Human Rights Network and active member of Escena Latina, the only Latino theatre troupe in Boston. Ms. Negretti received her BFA from Emerson College.


In 1986, Mary Lou Olivarez-Mason became the first female Executive Director of the Michigan Commission of Spanish Speaking Affairs, that develops policies and a plan of action to serve, be an advocate for and represent the needs of the Hispanic communities within Michigan. Throughout her career, she has had an unrelenting commitment to justice and civil rights. Ms. Mason received a Nursing Degree from Saginaw School of Nursing and an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Great Lakes College. She currently serves on the Greater Lansing Cesar Chavez Commission. She was also instrumental in assisting Lansing Community College in building the first and only community college in Mexico, located in Guadalajara, Jalisco.


Daisy Ortiz-Cirihal has had a successful marketing career at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. She received her MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She serves as the Marketing Chair and Board member of the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s and serves in various roles on the Advisory Boards of the Hispanic Network Group of Ford Motor Company, Wayne State University, Chicano-Boricua Studies and the Mexicantown Hispanic Association. She is Founder and President of the Detroit Chamber of Hispanic MBA’s and volunteesr for Junior Achievement. She has been recognized as one of the ”Next Generation of Minority Business Leaders” in Minority MBA Magazine.


Sonia Plata serves as the Director of Capacity Building at the New Detroit-The Coalition, the nation’s first urban coalition of leaders representing business, labor, media, community-based and civil rights organizations, education, health and religious institutions to address the social and community ills. She holds a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan. She currently serves as the Board Chair for Latino Family Services, a human service organization. She is active on the Board of the Community Advisory Board of the Center for Chicano/Boricua Studies at Wayne State University and Leadership Detroit Selection Committee for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. Sonia is a co-founder of Women, Owning, Mentoring, Encouraging and Networking (WOMEN) United.


Milagros Rivas is a Senior Manager for the Gandara Mental Health Center, the third largest non-profit organization headed by Hispanics in Massachusetts. She received a Master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts. She is currently the Chairperson of the WMASS Substance Abuse Providers Association, which represents 30+ vendors funded by the Department of Public Health, a Trustee of the Community United Way, Board Member of the Springfield Urban League and serves other local, regional and statewide Boards.


Sandra Salazar-Thompson is the co-founder of the Latina Leadership Network of Northern California. She received her law degree from Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. She is employed by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research where she specializes in environmental justice. She is a volunteer with the Chicano/Latino Youth Leadership project, which serves youth on a statewide basis in California. She considers her mentoring of her own children one of her most significant contributions to Latina leadership.


Carmen Iris Sierra has a B.S. in Management/Human Resources from Central Connecticut State University and a M.S. in Public Administration from the University of Hartford. She is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Spanish Action, Inc. (C.A.U.S.A.), the largest coalition of Latino community-based organizations. She is Vice Chair and Commissioner for the Hartford Economic Development Commission, Board Member of Connecticut Workforce Development Board, and former member of Catholic Family Services. Ms. Sierra is Founder and President of the Latin American Students Organization and the Vice President of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women.


Josie S. Talamantez is the Assistant Chief of Grant Program for the California Arts Council, a state agency where she oversees five separate programs: Multicultural Arts Development, Traditional Folk Arts, Artists in Residence, Artists Fellowship and the State-Local Partnership (community development effort for local arts agencies). She is a founding and contributing member of Chicano Park in San Diego, the only open air museum in the Americas. She is a member of the Royal Chicano Air Force, aka Rebel Chicano Art Front, and sits on the Board of the Capital Area Indian Resources and the Board of Community Heritage Partners.