On October 28–30, 2023, a dynamic group of Southwestern students, including Laura Carrasco Torres ’24, Aspen Coriz-Romero ’24, Fernando Cruz Rivera ’26, Angel Ferrales ’24, Brandon Gomez Carrillo ’25, Brianna Gonzales ’24, and Viridiana Ruiz ’24, joined Assistant Dean of Strategic Initiatives & Professor of Spanish and Latin American & Border Studies Laura Senio Blair, Director of the Center for Career & Professional Development Adrian Ramirez, and Hispanic Student Success Coordinator Amalia Merino at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) ¡Adelante! Leadership Institute 37th Annual Conference in Chicago. This three-day event aimed to empower and develop leadership skills within the Hispanic community, offering a comprehensive experience with leadership training, networking opportunities, and mentorship sessions, creating a roadmap for academic and professional success.

In their post-conference reflections, the students shared personal insights and motivations behind their decision to apply for this transformative opportunity. Ferrales expressed the importance of connecting with other Latina students, hoping to draw inspiration from diverse leadership styles. Torres, a first-generation Latinx student, viewed it as an opportunity to empower and uplift her community. The conference’s impactful moments included a variety of workshops, connections, and inspiring stories. Carrillo valued meeting students with similar majors and interests, while Gonzales found inspiration in workshops featuring professionals from major companies, emphasizing the diverse paths to success.

With majors spanning various disciplines, the students discovered how different careers aligned with their academic and professional aspirations. The conference also left them with valuable advice for other students; Coriz-Romero advocates for being respectfully aggressive, Ferrales promotes courage in taking initiative, Carrillo emphasizes the importance of claiming space, and Gonzales reminds peers that each day presents new opportunities. Rivera advises focusing on two to three things and excelling in them, promoting quality as the key to success. Torres highlights the power of building a community, while Ruiz says your soft skills are transferable across different fields.

Offering words of encouragement to those unsure about attending the conference, the students unanimously expressed that it is an excellent opportunity for professional development and networking. They emphasized the conference’s diverse opportunities and the chance to witness the impact of the Latine community. Additionally, they highlighted the significance of building connections across various academic disciplines and professions.