Reyna Flores grew up in San Perlita, TX, a small town in the Rio Grande Valley! She is a Senior Program Coordinator in the College of Natural Sciences working with the School of Human Ecology. Reyna is the daughter of migrant farmworkers and earned a scholarship through the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at St. Edward’s University. It was through her involvement in CAMP that she learned about student affairs and pursued a master’s degree in student affairs and higher education at Texas State University. She is a doctoral student in the Program in Higher Educational Leadership at UT. Reyna has worked with college access programs assisting first-generation and low-income students and diversity recruitment. Her interests include diversity and inclusion efforts, college access and retention, and running after her two fur babies.
After attending and working at two HSI universities, coming to UT Austin was a major culture shock for Reyna. HFSA helped her build a community and made her feel welcomed. Reyna often leans on HFSA members to reenergize when she faces challenges at work. Seeing a group of people who look like her at the HFSA monthly meetings and events is a kind reminder that she belongs here.
Dr. Debra Cantu
Debra Cantú was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, as a first-generation student, with the opportunity to earn her Bachelors, Masters in Educational Administration and Ph. D. in Policy and Planning. Debra developed an interest in educational disparities when she learned the challenges her parents faced in school and dedicated her scholarly work to social justice leadership development, educator preparation, certification and strategic planning. She joined the University of Texas at Austin faculty and serves as an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, a Leadership Fellow in the College of Education and Co-Director of the Texas Principal Leadership Academy. Goal setting, work life balance, and self-care strategies are priorities Debra shares with her students and colleagues to support the retention of quality educators. She is a former teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, Director of Middle Schools, Director of PK-8 and Chief Academic Officer and Regional Director for Agile Mind, Inc. in collaboration with the Dana Center.
Debra appreciates her graduate school mentor, Dr. Martha Ovando for inviting her to attend an HFSA meeting and luncheon. This personal invitation introduced Debra to an organization dedicated to promote, understand and respect the Hispanic culture at the University of Texas through advocacy, education and service. Debra served on the HFSA Executive Board member as a Recorder and Faculty Co-Chair Elect and this year’s Faculty Co-Chair with her friend, colleague, Reyna Flores.
Staff Co-Chair Elect
Robert Anthony Valdez has been a Student Affairs Administrator for over 14 years and has dedicated his life to making great change for marginalized communities in higher education. He is originally from San Antonio, TX and moved to Austin, TX to attend The University of Texas at Austin for his undergrad. He completed his Master of Business Administration in San Antonio, TX at Our Lady of the Lake University with a focus in accounting. He is currently completing his Ph.D. at Colorado State University at Fort Collins, CO in Higher Education Leadership. He is the Associate Director for Conference and Event Services for University Housing and Dining at UT Austin. His typical year consist of hosting 125 summer programs and over 95 events. He has a passion for event planning and making an experience unique and special. On his free time, Robert devotes his time and energy to his family, friends, mentoring, volunteering and his dog, Ozzy. You can spot him running/paddle boarding around at Lady Bird Lake or at workout boot camps around Austin.
Faculty Co-Chair Elect[vacant]
My name is Leann Lopez and I was born and raised in San Antonio, Tx. I have been in Austin and at UT for a little over three years now. My current role at UT is a Financial Analyst for the Federal Costing Team within the Office of Accounting & Financial Management. Although I was recruited into HFSA prior to knowing much about it, I knew it was a great opportunity to just get out of my comfort zone and to meet new people. After learning more about HFSA, I’m truly grateful to be a part of something that is meaningful to me and I look forward to what’s to come!
Milly Lopez (she/her) serves as director of institutional partnerships in the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) where she manages collaboration and engagement efforts with 200+ partner organizations to develop community and education initiatives for diverse populations, both on campus and off campus. She works with stakeholders to identify and cultivate industries of opportunity for students and community while ensuring partnerships with nonprofits and corporations drive innovation and social impact. Milly is also director of two new campus-wide student success initiatives for Hispanic/Latinx students, RGV Familia and LILI.
Milly holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas State University and a master’s degree in higher education leadership from The University of Texas at Austin. She is originally from San Benito, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley. A first-generation college student from a single-parent household, she is driven by her experiences to provide equity and access for students and community.
Vanessa was born and raised in Laredo, TX. She currently serves as the academic advising coordinator at the Vick Center for Strategic Advising within the School of Undergraduate Studies. Vanessa believes that empathy plays a major part in academic advising. She enjoys building rapport with her students to better understand their specific challenges and struggles while being as resourceful as possible. Vanessa is mindful of the holistic growth of her students and wants them to feel fully supported throughout their college endeavors. She strives to develop an environment that is open and inclusive to all students on campus.
Vanessa joined HFSA almost three years ago and enjoys the sense of community it brings.
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Hometown: Laredo, TX
Major: Communication Disorders, Student Affairs in Higher Education
Quote: “They tried to bury us, they did not know we were seeds”
Amy Beebe is the student program coordinator for the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) in the Cockrell School of Engineering . As a program coordinator, Amy assists in coordinating programming for current students which includes the WEP Leadership Collaborative student organizations, WEP’s Peer Assistance Leaders and WEP Kinsolving Living Learning Community. In addition to current student programming, she coordinates recruitment initiatives for WEP with collaboration from their sibling program, Equal Opportunity in Engineering, and other departments within Cockrell School of Engineering. Amy earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Texas at Tyler and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at Texas Tech University. Amy is also an active member in several campus wide committees: Cultural Awareness Committee, Academic Counselors Association, Bias Busting Team and Association of Professionals in Student Affairs. She has been on campus since 2014.
I became involved with HFSA within the first year I started working at UT. Being a part of a community of others who come from similar backgrounds and cultures as my own has really helped me reconnect with a part of me that hasn’t always been shared nor seen easily on campus (especially within the STEM space I work in). HFSA gives me a space to truly embrace that part of my identity and celebrate it in ways that I’m not able to do in other spaces or even at home since I am far from my own family. I am very much looking forward to my time on the Executive Committee and contributing the accepting familia that is HFSA!
- Leadership & Professional Development Committee
- Jessica Mendiola
Jessica Mendiola (she/her/ella) was born and raised in the Bordertown of Laredo, TX. She currently serves as Coordinator for Student Training and Development at the University Unions where she helps student employees see the value in their work beyond the paycheck. She received a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master of Education in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Texas State University. Jessica is a member of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, Inc. Most of the time, you can find Jessica cuddling with her pup, Alba, and overwatering her plants.
Jessica joined HFSA in the spring of 2019.
- John Trevino Jr. Holiday Assistance Committee
- Leticia Acosta
- Elections Committee
- Justin Rosales
- Welcome Committee
- Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge serves as a Program coordinator with the University Leadership Network. Previously, he worked in the RGV and Central Texas region with underserved students. He has experience with financial literacy, mentoring, and college advocacy programs. Jorge earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in higher education from The University of Texas at Austin.
- Book & Culture Committee
- Krysta Chacon
- Fiesta Committee
- Desiree Alva
Desiree D. Alva (she/her) serves as Director of Student Programming and Assessment for New Student Services (NSS) in the division of Student Affairs. In this role she oversees student support programs for targeted populations (e.g., foster care alumni, first-generation), coordinates fall/spring and transfer new student orientation, and manages assessment. She has been with NSS and at UT Austin for five years and has been a member of HFSA for most of that time.
Before coming to UT Austin, Desiree worked at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Edgewood College in a variety of roles that spanned both Academic and Student Affairs (e.g., Diversity Affairs, New Student Orientation, Admissions, Counseling, Advising, Student Organizations, and Residence Life). No matter the role or the institution, she always found ways to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion and worked to advocate for unique populations such as native, transfers, veterans, first-generation, foster care alumni, undocumented and LGBTQA+.
Desiree is one of six kids and the only one to have received a college degree. She is originally from San Antonio, Texas and received all of her degrees from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (B.A., M.S, and Ph.D.). She and her wife have three kids and live in South Austin.
- Scholarship Committee
- Isabel Alvarado
Isabel Alvarado (she/her) is from San Antonio, TX, just a short drive away! She is a Program Coordinator at the Graduation Help Desk in the School of Undergraduate Studies. She began her career after graduating from UT Austin in 2019 as a first-generation student, and has enjoyed her many student-facing roles here. As an alumna, she is still connected with the university as a Staff Advisor for an organization on campus. She enjoys adventuring around Austin, good food, and walks/cuddles with her pup, Coco.
- Staff Equity & Inclusion Task Force
- Rafael Salazar
Rafael Salazar was raised in Pasadena, TX, a part of the greater Houston, TX area. As a recent 2018 UT Austin alum he returned as a full-time staff member in Spring of 2019. He currently works for the Department of Physics as an Academic Coordinator. His passion for his work comes from the experience of feeling lost as a first-generation college Latinx on UT campus. Rafael leads with empathy working with students on a daily basis to ensure they feel supported and understood the moment they arrive, and throughout their academic journey here. When not working, you can find Rafael around Austin on a volleyball court, eating great food, at movie theater, or co-parenting his roommate’s German Rottweiler, Honeybear.
Rafael joined HFSA last year and is incredibly grateful for the sense of community and meaningful contributions this organization provides.
Hometown: Pasadena, TX