University of New Mexico alumna Cindy Nava will be the keynote speaker for UNM’s 2022 Fall Commencement set for Friday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. in University Arena, The Pit.

Nava, who came to the U.S. as a child from Chihuahua, Mexico, grew up as an undocumented immigrant in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M. She managed to surpass many political barriers to become a first-generation high school and college graduate and has gone on to take unprecedented positions within education, immigration policy, and politics at the state and national levels.

Cinda Nava
UNM alumna Cindy Nava

"As the immigrant and the Mexican-New Mexican that I am - I am beyond proud and grateful for the opportunity to shed light on the many students throughout UNM who like I might ask themselves if they belong in those UNM hallways," said Nava. "The answer is YES you do, and UNM is everything it is because of its diversity and its rich cultural values. I am beyond proud to be a Lobo and will always be grateful for the many UNM leaders who helped me throughout my path."

As a public policy advocate and a former political strategist, Nava, a champion of immigrant rights, has utilized the power of her lived experiences to empower communities of color, youth, and leaders across the country through her work in the areas of policy, education, politics, leadership development, and advocacy. 

Nava, who is proud to call herself a “Mexican-New Mexican,” is a former DACA recipient who became a naturalized U.S. citizen on Feb. 6, 2021. She has focused efforts on opening access for immigrants interested in policy and politics to begin a pathway of leadership development and training that creates opportunities for them to serve within those sectors. She believes in strengthening voices through civic engagement, education and holistic methods rooted in innovative and transformational leadership practices that guide the creation of conscious policy initiatives that support marginalized communities across the country.

Nava recently obtained an unprecedented White House Presidential Appointment making her the first former DACA recipient in the U.S. to obtain a political appointee. Prior to the Presidential Appointment, she served as executive director of Transform Education NM from 2021-2022.

Nava has marked several historical precedents after becoming the first undocumented person to intern for a national political party in Washington, D.C., and the first DACA recipient to work as a Majority Pool Analyst for the New Mexico House of Representatives. Previously, Nava served as political director for U.S. Senator Ben Ray Lujan, and as Chief Administrative Officer at The United States Hispanic Leadership Institute in Chicago, Ill.

During her time as an undergrad, the former Lobo served as a fellow at El Centro de La Raza, as director of student government affairs at ASUNM and at the Community Engagement Center. At the time, she said her education at UNM helped shape her professional career.

“UNM laid a strong foundation that allowed me to grow, while also challenging systems that had not yet had an undocumented student like myself playing the roles that I had the opportunity to serve in,” Nava said at the time.

Nava graduated from UNM with a BA in Political Science and Minor in Criminology and was the first DACA recipient to be admitted into the Educational Leadership and Policy Masters program at UNM.