We often confuse a leader as someone who gives commands because we believe they have power over everyone else. Are these truly the characteristics of a leader? What exactly is a leader? What makes someone a great leader and what exactly do they possess? All these questions and more were answered at the Hispanic Leadership Forum on Friday, January 23.
The evening began with a speech from Dr. Emily Tobey (Associate Provost) who informed us that breaking the stereotypes and becoming better people all starts with people like ourselves.
“Just by being here, you have shown enough dedication and initiative to show that YOU are the leaders of tomorrow.” – Dr. Emily Tobey, Associate Provost, UT Dallas
It wasn’t until a little bit later that an activity led by Bruce August Jr., let the students interact and really discuss what a leader was. To us, we learned by doing something different…drawing what a leader looked like. The characteristics that various groups came up with were the following:
To think that so many other words come out of the word “Leader” was outstanding. It was obvious that we knew what a leader was, but how does one actually become a leader? Better yet, how does someone become a great leader? To answer these questions and more, we were graced by the following panelists Dr. Monica Rankin (Assistant Professor of Mexican & Latin American History at UT Dallas), Dr. Juan Solis (Assistant Principal of Utley Middle School, Rockwall ISD), Cindy Quintanilla (Senior Associate of Deloitte Forensic and Dispute Resolution Service Line), and Raul Magdaleno (Internationally Known, Community Servant Leader and Professional Empowerment Speaker).
Each of these panelists shared their stories, their struggles, and their motivation in what lead them to become successful. Many of them, like many of us that attended the forum, were first generation college students. Akin to us, what kept them going was knowing that all their collegiate struggles would one day lead them to success. But of course, having family, friends, and other people support them all the way until the end were also a positive contribution.
Raul Magdaleno immigrated to the United States when he was 2 years old, had a challenging childhood, and had to help out his family even after going to school. His constant motivation was to break the Hispanic stereotype. He was constantly told that he wouldn’t amount to anything, and he proved them wrong. He is now an internationally known speaker who gives back to the community by dedicating his life to higher education. Dr. Solis lost his father during a LULAC Women’s Convention and what helped him get through college was the constant support of his LULAC friends, wife, and UTD Professors. He is now Assistant Principal of Utley Middle School in Rockwall ISD and will have his Doctorate by August of this year. Cindy Quintanilla struggled with not only being the only Hispanic on her team at work but also by being a Hispanic woman in corporate America. She says that’s okay to embrace where you come from and never be ashamed. Be proud of who you are. Dr. Rankin, who spoke about her balance between being a mother and learning Latin studies in Mexico, was unique from the rest of the panelist because she was the only non-Hispanic. She is from Turkish descent, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to know more about Latin culture. Her words of advice will forever be on my mind:
“NEVER ever-ever-EVER… LET ANYONE TELL YOU, you can’t do something. Regardless of how big that goal might seem. No one should ever be able tell you, you can’t do it. Especially YOU…. and I think that’s the biggest obstacle is when you tell yourself you can’t do something… you tend to believe it.” This is something I’ve always struggled with and I never thought of it this way, but I guess the biggest obstacle in life is yourself and until you’re able to get over you, you won’t be able to become the person you want to be in life: a leader.
To end the night, Danny Cordova spoke to us about the Hispanic and other diverse cultures around UTD. He later opened the panel up for discussion by anyone who wanted to share their story. One particular story from one of the young gentlemen in the audience was of no surprise. He married a fair-skinned Russian girl who didn’t have a VISA and when he went to go get one for her immigration thought the opposite. Immigration thought that she was getting a VISA for him. I see this as no surprise because stereotypically this is what we see on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes people think that if you look “brown”, you look “Mexican” and because you look a certain way, people will look at you,give you attitude and ask why should you even bother reaching for more in life.
To think that only a small amount of Hispanic and other minority groups actually graduate from UTD is sort of depressing, but luckily those numbers will change with people like us who are able to take the initiative and dedicate our time at UTD to make an impact. This will increase not only graduation rates, but also career growth within our communities.
We truly want to thank everyone who attended this event. It’s because of you that we are able to make a difference, not only at UTD, but also in our community. Believe it or not, you are all leaders in one-way or another. Big or small, you can make an impact too. Until next time comets.
Author: Cintia Guerrero Castañón
Cintia is a Multicultural Peer Advocate in the Multicultural Center. She is responsible for assisting in the planning and execution of cultural programming and events in the center. She is working on her Bachelors in Science in Management Information Systems in the JSOM and Bachelors in Arts in Emerging Media and Communication in ATEC here at UT Dallas. She likes to have fun and be active on campus with organizations such as LULAC and Sigma Lambda Alpha. Look for more blog posts from her in the future.