A University of New Mexico graduate is relocating to Chicago to pursue a life-changing leadership role on the national level. Cindy Nava is the new Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute, an award-winning national, non-profit, non-partisan organization.

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“It is thanks to my state, my institution and my entire village that I am where I am today,” Nava says. “This is really a validation of New Mexico and UNM, to have one of their own rise to the national level and I’m thankful for all the support I’ve received along the way.”

Nava is a UNM alumna and worked as a research assistant in The 's Center for Policy Research. She was also featured in a TEDXABQ talk, in which she challenged the audience to mentor and advocate on behalf of young women, particularly minorities. She is uniquely qualified to work at USHLI, which is recognized as an official source of demographic, economic, and social statistics produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. The group aims to promote education and leadership development through empowering Latinos, and engages disenfranchised groups through civic engagement and research, while encouraging them to participate in the electoral process.

“As a first-generation college graduate, I understand and have lived through the struggles our low-income students of color face on a daily basis around our state,” Nava says. “I have also come to find that this world is full of kindness and incredible people who are out there to mentor, support and guide if we are willing to take their help.”

Nava says success is a combination of trial and error, and her tenacity is sure to serve her well in her new role. 

“Going through life being undocumented taught me the value of perseverance, dedication and determination even during the toughest times in my life,” Nava says. “However, it has been thanks to those struggles and hardships that I have come to know and understand from my lived experience the value of gratitude, honesty, and sacrifice.”

This opportunity is a chance for Nava to work with the legendary Latino leader, Juan Andrade Jr. She says she looks forward to bringing a New Mexican perspective to USHLI, along with the chance to provide additional resources and opportunities to local underserved students of color.

As a previous speaker at the USHLI national conference, Nava will now be part of the team making it happen. The conference will take place in Chicago in Feb. 2019. The event attracts thousands of present and future leaders representing 40 states, who will attend various events throughout the four-day conference. It is a time for students and young professionals to meet recruiters, national policy-makers and future employers.

Despite the national experience, Nava says her roots remain in New Mexico and she looks forward to returning to the Land of Enchantment, eventually.

“When I return home permanently, I will be looking forward to make my once imaginary and literally unattainable dream come true,” Nava says. “As Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor said: ‘I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those experiences.’ That quote has never had more meaning to me than it does now.”