National Hispana Leadership Institute - Celebrating 27 Years of Latina Leadership  

at Harvard University

Executive Leadership Program

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Sponsored By:

Anheuser Bush


Center for Creative Leadership


Miller Coors




Class of 2009


Cristina M. Abreu is the Manager of External Business Quality & Compliance at The Nielsen Company. Abreu, who received a Master of Arts in Organizational Communication from Southeastern Louisiana University, joined The Nielsen Company through its Emerging Leaders Program (formerly known as the Management Development Rotation Program). As part of this program, Abreu spent 18 months working in various Nielsen business units gaining exposure to areas such as sales & marketing, finance, communications, production/operations, information technology, and engineering/technology. Assignments within the program consisted of rotations with Nielsen offices located in the following areas: New York City, Tampa, Chicago and Los Angeles.

At Nielsen, Abreu works on diversity initiatives through appointment of its Diversity Council and serving as Co-Chair of Nielsen’s HOLA (Hispanic Organization of Leaders in Action) Employee Resource Group. HOLA’s mission is to foster a network of employees that will promote the development of Latino/Hispanic cultural awareness within the Nielsen Company while contributing to the Company’s success, diversity and business objectives through career development, education, and community involvement. As Secretary and Board of Directors Member of the Hispanic Professional Women’s Association, Inc. (HPWA), she is actively involved in Tampa’s Hispanic community by promoting educational activities for Hispanic women that will foster professional growth and promote the value of higher education.

Abreu is also a participant in the Charter Leadership Class for the Mayor of Tampa’s Hispanic Advisory Council. The goal is to make communities stronger by responding to the needs of professionals and develop the next generation of emerging leaders.



Deborah Aguiar-Vélez is the Founder, President, and Owner of Sistemas Corporation. An accomplished engineer and businesswoman, she is nationally recognized for innovative leadership in the areas of entrepreneurship, technical development, and public service. Aguiar-Vélez founded Sistemas Corporation in 1983. The company provides customized software and training for engineers, scientists, and technical personnel. Her clients include ExxonMobil, Baxter, BASF, Xerox, and Colgate-Palmolive.

Aguiar-Vélez is a member of the Board of Directors of SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Company, Inc., where she also serves on the Executive, Human Resources, and Finance Committees. In addition to her service on the board of SBLI USA, Ms. Aguiar-Vélez has served on the boards of The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA and CoreStates New Jersey National Bank.

She has been the recipient of numerous honors, among them IBM’s Hispanic Magazine’s Latina Excellence Award for Science and Technology. Ms. Aguiar-Vélez earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering with honors from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and has attended two executive education programs at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. In 2009, she launched Escuchame -a Latinas Speakers Bureau.


Guadalupe Torres Alcala, CPCU has been the Director for the El Paso Customer Response Center for State Farm® Insurance Companies since February 2008. Alcala started her State Farm® career in Illinois as a Field Claim Representative in the Auto Company in 1996. In 2001, she became an Auto Claim Central Team Manager for the Language Team in Bloomington, Il. In 2004, she assumed a developmental assignment in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Corporate Headquarters. In this role, she was able to develop Enterprise initiatives around diversity and inclusion and employee development. She was named Field Claim Team Manager in Bloomington, IL in September 2005. In September 2006, Alcala was selected to as Auto Estimatics Section Manager in the Tempe Operation Center.

Alcala graduated from Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, with degrees in English and French and earned a Master’s in Foreign Language from the University of Wisconsin. She also completed the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter designation (CPCU) in 2007. The CPCU designation is a prestigious insurance designation bestowed upon insurance professionals who have demonstrated field expertise in insurance and who have completed a rigorous self study program consisting of eight parts. She is currently pursuing her Chartered Life Underwriter designation as a means to continue to grow in her professional role.

Alcala is an avid reader who enjoys spending time with her family and traveling. She and her husband, Rogelio Alcala, are actively involved with their sons, David and Ricardo.



Teresa Alonso is the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Director at Portland Community College. As a former migrant student, Alonso became the first person in her family to go to college. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and a minor in Chicano Studies from Western Oregon University. She is currently working on her Master’s degree in Public Administration at Portland State University. Alonsoa has focused her career on education and developing opportunities for Latino youth who come from migrant, disadvantaged and low-income backgrounds.

Her expertise in education within the Latino community was has been recognized through various awards including: the New Leadership Oregon Women Leaders Award and the Staff Leadership Award from the Portland Community College Rock Creek Multicultural Center.. Alonso’s accomplishments have featured in the media. She was profiled in Portland’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, where she stated: “College was her key to her past and her future.” As a staff member of Portland Community College and director of a federally funded program, Alonso has developed innovative initiatives that have helped her program stand out. This has earned her an invitation from the Office of Portland’s Mayor-elect, Sam Adams, to participate in a focus group of educators to provide best practice ideas aiming to decrease the dropout rate in the community. Alonso enjoys working with youth, challenging them to reach their potential and developing creative new programs focused on decreasing the dropout rate within the Latino Community.



Sindy Marisol Benavides is the Director of Community Outreach & Voting for the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C., making her the highest ranking Latina at DNC.

She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Spanish from Virginia State University in Petersburg, VA, where she graduated valedictorian of her class She later received her MA degree in International Affairs from the School of International Service at American University, Washington, DC. Benavides is fluent in Spanish and English, understands and reads French, and is learning Arabic. She believes that giving back to the community through public service is an investment in our future.

She is the founder and president of the League of United Latina American Citizens (LULAC) Council 4611 (Richmond, VA). A native of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, she is the daughter of immigrants and extremely proud of her immigrant heritage.



Gale Castillo is the President and is a founding member of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber that was established in 1994. The Hispanic Chamber is a local chapter of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC. Its mission is to work with all members of the community to increase the economic advancement of Hispanic-owned businesses. The Hispanic Chamber, headquartered in Portland, OR, is the largest Hispanic chamber of Commerce in the Northwest with over 780 members. Castillo is also the co-owner of Cascade Centers, Inc., one of the largest privately held companies that provides Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services and staff development throughout the United States.

Castillo has been recognized by a variety of groups for her community service. In April 2004, Ms. Castillo was selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration as Oregon’s 2004 Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year. Also in April of 2004, Ms. Castillo was recognized by the Business Journal as one of the top “Woman Executives of the Year for Non-profit Organizations.” In October of 2002, the Oregon Business Magazine named Ms. Castillo as one of “Fifty to Follow” in Oregon.

Castillo's current community involvements include: US Bank, Business Advisory Board (Oregon), Leaders Roundtable (Portland, OR), Portland Trail Blazers Business Advisory Board, American Leadership Forum, Class IV Fellow and former Board member.

Castillo received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Linfield College and a Master’s degree from Portland State University. Ms. Castillo is married to Gerald "Jerry" Brown. They have three sons—Anthony Castillo Brown, Robert Castillo Mejia and Brett Brown.



Elvira N. Corey is the Global Human Resources Director of Global Apparel and Merchandising at Nike. Corey represents the Americas region which consists of five key Latin countries, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and the country of Canada. She provides strategic HR direction in the function of Human Resources for all countries impacting approximately 1500 employees worldwide. She has been at Nike for over ten years and has worked within different businesses in the areas of retail, sales, team sports, and apparel.

Corey’s multicultural and bilingual skills have enabled her to drive the Nike Global HR strategy to another level by bringing the Latin countries’ voice to the table and ensuring there are more global approaches and solutions to Nike’s employees in the areas of recruitment, development, and movement within the Nike organization. Prior to Nike, she worked within the retail industry for Nordstrom and Meier & Frank in Sales and Management before going into Human Resources. Elvira’s true passion in developing people has provided her the opportunity to mentor other Latinas and to take on additional opportunities within the community.

She has taken on a leadership role by working with Portland Public Schools in facilitating leadership programs and elevating the overall skills of school and district leaders. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her three children, one who has graduated from college and the other two who are still in enrolled in school. Elvira also enjoys running and has completed her first marathon. She competes in numerous races throughout the year and has competed as a dual athlete. She intends to continue dedicating her life to provide encouragement and support to others so they too can experience the life they envision for themselves.


Dr. Gloria Coronado is an Associate Member of the Cancer Prevention Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington. She received her training at both Stanford University and the University of Washington. Dr. Coronado’s research focuses mainly on interventions to promote health among Hispanic populations. She is a co-investigator on three research projects that take place in the Yakima Valley; one that examines how children of farm workers are exposed to pesticides, a second aims to improve cancer screening practices, and a third that aims to improve diabetes prevention and self-management practices.

She has mentored several undergraduate and graduate students locally and leads a cancer research training program for undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students from New Mexico State University. For the past four years, she has served on the board of CASA Latina and Planned Parenthood of Western Washington.


escobar Anabella Escobar is the Director of a comprehensive 24-hour transitional housing program for survivors of domestic violence and their children in NYC at Safe Horizon, Inc. Previously, Escobar worked as a Borough Coordinator for the Mental Health Association of NYC, Inc. In this position, she was able to extend the awareness, application and practice of the strengths-based, individual family network model in the Bronx serving children with emotional and behavioral difficulties and their families. In addition, in this position. Escobar provided assistance and technical support to the Bronx Borough Based Council (BBBC).

Escobar holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from Colombia University, Teachers College and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from New York University, Robert F. Wagner. Escobar received her Bachelor’s of arts in psychology from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At NYW, she participated in an academic year-long consulting project with New York City Mayors’ office to combat domestic violence. This projected involved researching performance and outcome measurement within NYC agencies providing domestic violence program and services.



Laura M. Esquivel, a longtime political strategist and activist in the LGBT, Latino, labor and immigration advocacy movements. Currently Ms. Esquivel is Principal of Esquivel Consulting, where she develops strategies, outreach and strategic communication for political campaigns and progressive issues campaigns. She serves as the Senior Vice President for Political and Public Affairs at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute.
She has legislative and policy advocacy experience at the local and national level, working on a wide range of issues including civil rights, LGBT rights, election integrity, and immigration, specializing in looking for opportunities to develop strategic partnerships to advance movements – and not merely advance issues.

Prior to starting her own consulting practice, Esquivel was the Senior Vice President for Political and Public Affairs at the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute. The Victory Fund is the only national organization dedicated to increasing the number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elected officials at all levels of government and is the nation’s largest LGBT political action committee. Ms Esquivel is responsible for strategically expanding partnerships to advance and broaden the base of political support for the Victory Fund and its endorsed candidates.

Esquivel has also held adjunct faculty positions at California State University at Los Angeles and local Los Angeles area colleges in the departments of political science. Ms. Esquivel was named one of 20 most influential LGBT Latinos in the country in 2008 by Adelante magazine. A native of Los Angeles, Ms. Esquivel resides with her partner, Marcia Kuntz, in Takoma Park, MD.


Sandra Gasca-Gonzalez is the President of KVC Behavioral HealthCare Inc.-Nebraska located in Omaha, NE. She is a licensed Master’s leveled Psychologist and has 12 years of leadership and management experience in the social service and mental health systems. Sandra manages a multi-million dollar budget and oversees approximately 265 employees and 400 foster homes statewide serving children and families. She is skilled in non-profit management, program design, modification, implementation, financial and human resource management.

Gasca-Gonzalez graduated from Emporia State University, Emporia, KS with an M.S. in Psychology and from Southwestern College, Winfield, KS with a BA in Psychology. She has completed work towards a doctorate degree at Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, MO. Gasca-Gonzalez serves as Vice President of the Executive Board for the Children’s Alliance of Kansas, was awarded Wichita Business Journal’s 40 under 40 and a member of the American Psychological Association

inez gonzalez Inez Gonzalez is the Vice President of Media Policy for the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) — a non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to improve the image of American Latinos as portrayed by the media, increase the number of American Latinos employed in all facets of the media industry, and advocate for media and telecommunication policies that benefit the Latino community. In her capacity, Gonzalez heads the Washington, D.C. office and is responsible for promoting media and telecommunication policies that will be of benefit to the Latino community. Inez is NHMC’s liaison with national, state and local elected officials.

Previous to joining NHMC, she was the District Director for Congressman Bob Filner (D-51) overseeing the management and operations of two district offices that served over 650,000 constituents. Gonzalez’ professional experience includes tenures as Public Relations & Communications Manager for a California Health Management Organization (HMO); Financial Analyst for a defense contractor; and Contract Compliance Officer for the public transportation agency in San Diego, CA. Inez is a fellow of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Leadership Training Institute and the Women’s Policy Institute a program of the California’s Women Foundation. She has served as Board Member of San Diego MANA in several capacities, including serving as Vice President of Operations. Gonzalez has a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of San Diego and a Master’s in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix.


belen gonzalez

Belen Gonzalez, M.S.W., graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and earned a Master’s in Social Work, with an emphasis on policy and community organizing from the University of Chicago. Gonzalez has been involved with numerous nonprofit organizations that service children 0 to 5 years of age, teenagers and teenage parents.

She is a member of Hispanics in Philanthropy and Valley Leadership, as well as a recipient of the “Top Forty Under 40” awarded by the Phoenix Business Journal and the Valle del Sol, Hispanic Leadership Institute Public Service Award.

In her current position as Grants Manager with the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Gonzalez is responsible for reviewing grant proposals, meeting with potential grantees, conducting site visits and monitoring and evaluating proposals.


Andrea Juarez completed her B.S. in Psychology at Western Michigan University, where she stayed to complete her graduate work in Behavior Analysis in 2006. She has an outstanding record of leadership and community service. While still in graduate school, Juarez founded a student organization for graduate students of color and started Kalamazoo’s first Grassroots Leadership Development program with the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute.

She is an active volunteer who spends her time working to empower at risk youth and the Latino community. In 2009 Ms. Juarez plans to release her first book, an autobiography and begin her work as a motivational speaker.



Michelle Minguez Moore is the Executive Director of the Latino Leaders Network, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to develop ongoing opportunities to bring leaders together to establish relationships and dialogue on issues important to the Latino community. She also serves as a Senior Associate for Mickey Ibarra & Associates, a government and public affairs firm. With a strong political, marketing and strategic planning background, she helps bring together interests among private and public sector clients and organizations to support Latino interests and advocacy efforts.

Minguez Moore received her Master’s of Education Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard University, Master’s in Public Policy from American University and a Political Science BA from Boston University. She serves on the Board of Directors for The National Equity Center and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Latino Advisory Board.



Lillian A. Plata is a native of New Jersey and currently a Senior Associate at McManimon & Scotland, LLC in Newark, New Jersey. Prior to joining McManimon & Scotland, LLC she served as a Senior Associate at the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. in the Public Finance Department representing various government entities and underwriters in connection with all aspects of public finance, including compliance with all federal and state laws with a focus on Section 103 tax issues.

Plata received her Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law-Newark and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Drew University. As a member of the Board of Trustees of Latinas United for Political Empowerment, she has worked with a dynamic group of Latinas to organize various trainings and conferences such as Elección Latina and the Young Latina Leadership Conference in the State of New Jersey. Plata is also the current Chair of Latinas United for Political Empowerment Political Action Committee. She has served on the Board of Trustees of the American Red Cross Tri-County Chapter and was Managing Editor of Rutgers Race and the Law Review. Lillian enjoys giving back to her community, reading, networking, dancing and music.

quiala Maribel Quiala, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, has become a sought-after spokesperson with her thought-provoking commentary on critical contemporary health issues that challenge Latino and immigrant families. Quiala is a diligent spokesperson in the fight to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. She stresses advancing culturally appropriate health care services that are critical for families that are bridging two worlds.

Featured on television, radio and in print, Quiala is an expert in children’s mental health/psychiatric disorders, Latina health issues, and current healthcare practices including adolescent addictions, attention deficit disorder, gang behavior, and chemically dependent and dysfunctional families.

She graduated from Seton Hall University with a BA in Psychology and Music and was named to Who’s Who among Students in American Universities. Quiala earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work at Barry University.

She was recognized by Florida International University for outstanding service and support towards reducing health disparities in substance abuse and HIV/AIDS among Latinos. Mujeres Dinamicas American Cancer Society recognized her for her tireless work with women who have cancer and assisting Latinas in reviewing their options, treatments, advocating for them and getting them services. She was featured in El Nuevo Herald 06 for her work with the Latino community.

lauren rivera

Lauren Rivera Whitlock was appointed as Director of Public Information for the New York of State in April 2007. This year she planned the New York State Electoral College which finalized the selection of Barack Obama as our nation’s 44th President. Rivera has worked for the City University of New York’s School of Journalism and CNN. She was also a teacher within the Teach for America, AmeriCorps program in Houston, TX, where she also participated in starting a charter school as the school’s Director of Development. Rivera received a Master’s of Science from the Colombia School of Journalism.

Rivera currently serves on the boards of Hispanic Outreach Services, the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program and the Women’s Press Club. Her career and civic participation reflect her commitment to public service and dedication to advocacy for children, education and the Latino community.


sandra rodriguez Dr. Sandra Rodriguez is the Instructional Manager at the Albuquerque Schools where she oversees an office of 15 testing specialists and a resource teacher. She received her doctorate in Early Childhood and Multicultural Teacher Education from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Rodriguez is an active member of several state-wide committees working on educational and legislative reform. Her current focus of study is in the development of on-line teacher education programs.

Some of her community service has included serving on the Santa Fe Community College Early Childhood Education Advisory Board, Santa Fe County Maternal and Child Health Council, The New Mexico Teacher Education Accountability Council, Legislative Education Study Committee AD HOC Subcommittee on Governance of Public School, Mission and Ministry Council for the Santa Fe/New Orleans District, and MANA member. In 2004, she received the CSF’s Fairfax Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest faculty award presented.

rafaela schwan

Rafaela Schwan is the Executive Director of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Inc. (SHPE). Rafaela manages the day-to-day operations for the sales department and government relations. In addition, as Director of Programs, she manages the operations and development of the SHPE “Advancing Hispanic Excellence in Technology, Engineering, Math and Science” (AHETEMS) Foundation student programs. She authored the policies and guidelines for the newly formed Jr. SHPE High School Chapters. She designed the new SHPE AHETEMS Scholars and Internship programs.

She was selected to be one of the prestigious fellows assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) headquarters, Office of Equal Opportunity Programs. Her previous experience includes serving in the U.S. Air Force and was a part of the “Thunderbirds” and traveled across the U.S,, Latin America and Canada.



Lourdes Sampera Tsukada is the President of Opening Latino and Non-Latino Doors, L.L.C. A company which firmly believes in “OPENING Doors and creating a business world where communication and business is conducted cross culturally.” Lourdes was previously a mortgage banker for eight years and has over 21 years of experience in international business and diverse cultures. She speaks four languages: English, Spanish, Italian and French. She received a B.A. in Spanish from Akron University and also attended Universidad de El Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina for Tradotorado de Inglés.

Lourdes passion for the value of diversity in building connection within the Hispanic Community and Business, Finance and International Export professions is clearly demonstrated in her leadership efforts to mentor, educate, connect, advise and promote professionals through numerous organizations both locally and nationally. She firmly believes in investing time in others, mentoring others, disseminating knowledge acquired (either from personal experience or others) and learning from the individuals who she comes in contact with to enrich the Hispanic community and other organizations. Sampera Tsukada is married and enjoys painting and making jewelry.


Dr. Madeleine F. Wallace is the Evaluation Director of the Evaluation Branch within the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI), under the Office of the Director at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She advises the Institutes and Centers on evaluating their training, basic, clinical, and translational research programs and initiatives. Dr. Wallace earned her Ph.D. in Sociology with a concentration in Demography at the University of Tennessee. She has evaluated approaches and strategies for adapting science-based health information into practical education messages that meet the cultural and contextual needs of Latinos. Prior to joining NIH, Dr. Wallace led strategic planning efforts to design, monitor, and evaluate health programs for at-risk populations and minority groups. She has given numerous presentations and trainings on evaluation methodologies and her conceptual framework for adapting and tailoring evidence-based interventions to real-world practice settings. She also worked with leaders at the state level to identify and address the needs of minority populations in rural areas. Her community service includes working to improve the quality of life of Latinos.

She volunteers her time as a member at large of the NIH Hispanic Employee Organization and at a clothing store that serves Hispanics. She has been recognized as one of the Women in Science at the National Institutes of Health, and she was previously the New Commissioner of the Year at the Women’s Commission of Southwest Louisiana. She enjoys reading and swimming.