Maria Esther Lopez, St. Augustine College’s recently appointed Director of Development presented at the “Latina Trailblazers Networking Soiree” event last month where she was one of the speakers invited to share her experiences alongside such Hispanic leaders as Hannah Fernandez (Founder & CEO, ROI Business Funding), Elizabeth Florez (President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses – IL Chapter -NAHN), Maria Gonzalez Kronyak (Senior Director, Global Accounts, eMarketer) and Lydia Ortiz (Latino Market Manager, New York Life). The event was organized by HispanicPro, led by Alfonso Barrera.

Maria spoke about St. Augustine College and the impact it has on the thousands of students it serves annually through its adult education, workforce development, and academic degree programs.  Maria tells us, “I was asked to share about St. Augustine College, about my 17 years in the fields of education and leadership; to share something unique about myself; and offer career advice.  I told a story about the time I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane!  It wasn’t pretty! My cheeks were flapping in the wind, my hair in shambles, and those goggles were not flattering!  After a few moments of panic, there was an immense calmness and the moment came where I looked around at all the beauty as far as the eye could see.  I loved it!” Maria continues, “I related that story to a point we all get in our careers.  I parachuted during a time I felt in rut, needed to get out of my comfort zone and was searching for courage to change.  It was a symbolic gesture to do something drastic and risky. Later I did just that in my career. Fast-forward I am at a new job I love.  This was my message to the audience: Have the courage to take risks; do something you love; go above and beyond.”

Contributing to the community and advocating on behalf of the Latino community is Maria’s passion and she has served in a long list of boards and committees that work on those issues. At the national level that work included with the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans-Partners in Education, the National Council for Community and Educational Partnerships, and she was the founding board secretary of the American STEM Alliance based in Texas. At the state level her service included with the Regional Transit Authority Citizen Advisory Board, the board of the Latino Policy Forum and the Illinois Latino Family Commission. 

Maria has won various awards for her dedication to education and community service such as Chicago Latino Network Latina Professional of the Year Award Winner; Verizon Nueva Latina Star Community Service Award; and La Raza Newspaper Premio Empresarial Award for her work with the El Valor Leadership through Education University Partnership and Leadership Connections Program. Maria came to St. Augustine College after working in banking, public relations, insurance and non-profits. She has a bachelors from DePaul University and MBA from National Louis University.