Dr. Robert Anthony Valdez
Dr. Robert Anthony Valdez has been a Student Affairs Administrator for over 17 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 will cross the graduation stage December 2022 with his Ph.D. from Colorado State University at Fort Collins, CO. His PhD was Higher Education Leadership and focused on the intersectionality of gay Latino males as administrators in higher education. 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- President
Dr. Paul Cruz
Dr. Paul Cruz is the co-director of the Cooperative Superintendency Program (CSP) and is a Professor of Practice with the University of Texas at Austin. He teaches doctoral level classes in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy and prepares future superintendents and executive school leaders to serve in leadership roles to meet the ever-changing needs in the public education system.
Prior to joining the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Cruz served as the Superintendent of Schools in the Austin Independent School District (ISD) from 2014–2020. The Austin ISD, the sixth largest district in Texas, enrolls approximately 81,000 students with a workforce of around 12,000 employees.
Under Dr. Cruz’s leadership, the Austin ISD graduation rate reached an all-time high—outperforming the state and nation—with two-thirds of AISD graduates enrolling directly into college. Austin ISD met all student performance standards set by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and earned a Recognized rating from the TEA. Moreover, students scored above their peers throughout the state and the nation on ACT and SAT, and Austin ISD was named to the Advanced Placement Honor Roll.
During his tenure as superintendent, Austin ISD created a 20 year Facility Master Plan, passed a $1.05 billion dollar bond, and secured the largest staff pay raise in the history of the district. Moreover, Dr. Cruz worked with the community on the development, implementation and expansion of various initiatives at Austin ISD, including:
- Dual-language programs in Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese;
- Early College High Schools;
- Family Resource Centers:
- Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds;
- Social and Emotional Learning;
- Creative Learning Initiative;
- Health Professions School;
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math);
- Career Launch (Technology and Health Science);
- Single gender schools;
- Montessori school; and
- Breakfast in the Classroom.
Dr. Cruz was named to the Executive Board of the Council of Great City Schools which is a group that represents the largest urban districts in the nation. He also served as Chair of the Texas Urban Council which represents the major urban districts in the state of Texas.
With his goal of supporting students and families, Dr. Cruz began his career in education working as a teacher, campus administrator, central office administrator and superintendent in Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Laredo. He was also the deputy commissioner for dropout prevention at the Texas Education Agency. He served as a board member for the Austin Area Research Organizaiton, Austin Ed Fund and Austin Partners in Education.
Dr. Cruz received his Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Texas at Austin and was a fellow in the Cooperative Superintendency Program. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Texas at Austin, with a specialization in English, and a Master of Science degree in educational administration from Corpus Christi State University.
Staff Co-President Elect
Dr. 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 provides oversight and works to expand student programs for targeted populations (e.g., foster care alumni, first-generation), manages special projects, and coordinates assessment for the department. She has been with NSS and at UT Austin for almost seven years and has been a member of HFSA for about five years.
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.
Faculty Co-President Elect[vacant]
Vice President of Finance
Ryan Patrick Talamantes serves as the Manager for Conference Services within University Housing and Dining. Ryan grew up in Southern California where his family has lived before the State of California was even a state. He received his Bachelor’s Degrees in Political Science and History for Arizona State University. Listening to the advice of a friend, Ryan moved to Texas Tech University where he got his Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration while continuing to work in University Housing. When Ryan needed a summer internship for his degree, he decided that he would come to Austin Texas to see what the University of Texas at Austin had to offer. Ryan fell in love with Austin and UT almost instantly and knew that when he graduated there was no other place he would rather live. Ryan is starting his fifth year working for UT Austin and continues to love to call Austin home. As the Manager for Conference Services, Ryan serves as the lead for all Summer Housing needs on Campus and typically has about 130 summer programs that rely on him and his team. When Ryan is not at working, you can find Ryan at a coffee shop, at a bookstore, hanging with his friends playing board games, or with Pickles, his puppy! Ryan is excited to serve as the Vice President of Finances for HFSA.
Vice President of Finance Elect
Connie Estel Rodriguez (she, her, ella) serves as a Complex Coordinator within University Housing and Dining. Connie was born and raised in Huntsville, AL. Connie has grown up with a love for Texas for her parents both grew up in the Valley. She spent many winters and summers road tripping to the Valley to visit her family. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Health at the University of North Alabama (UNA). UNA is where her spark for Higher Education and Residence Life began. After completing her degree in Alabama she moved to Conway, AR. Here at the University of Central Arkansas she worked on her Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel Administration. After graduating she continued to work at Central Arkansas as a Residence Life Coordinator. The summer of 2019 Connie moved to Austin for a change in her Higher Ed career. Connie is now starting year four at UT working in University Housing and Dining. Outside of work Connie enjoys watching sports (especially soccer, football and professional bull riding), crafting, and hanging out with her friends. If you see Connie walking around in the evenings on Speedway you will see her being followed around by a small tan 5lb Chihuahua name Tomatillo, “Tommy”. This is Connie’s first year in HFSA and is looking forward to learn more about the organization and all we do. Connie is also serving as this year’s Vice President of Finances-Elect for HFSA.
Vice President of Administration and Community Engagement
Bianca Solis is the Senior Outreach Program Coordinator at the Annette Strauss Institute, housed within the College of Communication. She manages and grows the influence of the Institute’s collegiate programming including the statewide Texas Civic Ambassadors and the New Politics Forum events. In this role, she works to empower young with the tools to be changemakers in their communities and is committed to making civic development opportunities more accessible to students across the state
She’s originally from San Antonio and still considers it to be her home. Being a part of HFSA has come to mean having a little bit of home in Austin. This will be her second year serving on the HFSA Executive Board and she’s very excited to be a part of bringing back in-person community-building events to the UT Austin Campus
Vice President of Internal Communications
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”
Vice President of External Communications
Ramces Luna (he/him/el) serves as the Social Media Specialist at The University of Texas at Austin Housing and Dining. He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communication studies at Texas State University where he also worked as a Student Development Specialist for the Dean of Students and Leadership Institute. In his current role, Ramces supports University Housing and Dining (UHD) by conceptualizing, creating and managing engaging social media content to promote UHD’s brand, accomplishments, programs and services.
Leadership & Professional Development Committee
Anthony Noe Martinez (He/Him/El) was born and raised in the battle-born state of Nevada. Anthony transitioned south after his undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), where he was a triple major in Political Science, International Affairs, and Spanish. Anthony went on to attend Texas Tech University (TTU) to gain a more well-rounded experience in higher education and leadership and earned a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Business Administration.
As a member of the Hispanic Faculty/Staff Association HFSA, Anthony’s main priorities are synthesizing and actualizing the ideas of his peers, supporting their success on this campus, and helping to equip every HFSA member with the skills for success after their time here at the University.
Previously, Anthony was a Student Body President, Chair of the Graduate Student Senate, and a Hall Coordinate with the Housing Department at TTU and UNR. Anthony is an alumnus of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity, and other university-related accolades. This eventually led him to get involved with University Housing and Dining (UHD) at The University of Texas at Austin, where he serves as Complex Coordinate for Jester East Hall.
Anthony enjoys going to the Greg Gym, walking his dog Luca, and hanging out at Pease Park on the weekends, so do not be afraid to join in on his mini adventures!
John Trevino Jr. Holiday Assistance Committee
Membership and Engagement Committee
Chair: Amy Beebe
Amy Beebe is the Assistant Director for Women in STEM (WiSTEM), a newly established initiative in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin. Amy earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The University of Texas at Tyler. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies at Texas Tech University with her focus being higher education administration, cross-cultural communication, and strategic leadership. Amy began her UT Austin career in the summer of 2013 with time spent in College of Natural Sciences, Cockrell School of Engineering and McCombs School of Business. However, she just couldn’t stay away from the incredible work of supporting women in STEM fields so joined the Women in STEM team in January of 2022.
Since her start, Amy is active within the campus community whether by holding leadership positions or just being a member of UT Austin’s Academic Counselors Association and Hispanic Faculty & Staff Association. She has also held seats on the UT Austin Faculty Council and various campus committees. Amy received the 2020 Outstanding Staff Award in acknowledgment of her dedicated service. Currently, she serves as District 400 staff representative on the UT Staff Council.
HFSA has been the place that she most finds community in! She became involved with HFSA within the first year of working at UT. Being a part of a community of others who come from similar backgrounds and cultures as her own has really helped her reconnect with a part of herself that hasn’t always been shared nor seen easily on campus (especially within the STEM space she works). HFSA gives Amy a space to truly embrace that part of her identity and celebrate it in ways that she is not always able to do.
Book & Culture Committee
Chair: Jasmin Blas-Mendieta
Jasmin is originally from Monterey, California where she grew up as part of a large Mexican family. After moving to Austin and working at UT, she joined HFSA to be part of a cultural community that could be a support system and shared interest in higher education. She earned her BA in Psychology from the University of California, Merced and her M.Ed. in Higher Education from Penn State. Her student experience at UC Merced heavily influenced her interest in working with college students since she enjoyed being part of mostly first-gen student body.
Currently, Jasmin is the Senior Recruiting and Admissions Officer for the Texas McCombs Master in Professional Accounting program. In her role, Jasmin facilitates the #1 accounting program’s recruitment efforts and programming. As a first-generation college graduate, Jasmin has always felt passionate about supporting students as they enter college, promoting student success, and paying it forward through mentorship opportunities.
Chair: Angelia Barrera-Medina
Angelia Barrera-Medina (she/her/hers) serves as a Community Coordinator within University Housing and Dining. Angelia was born and raised in Cushing, OK. Angelia attended the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and her Master’s Degree in Adult Higher Education.
Angelia spent 4 years as a Hall Director at UCO working in multiple types of residence halls. After graduating with her Master’s, Angelia moved to the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) where she worked for over two years within Student Conduct and Community Standards. Angelia has now worked with UT for 1 year and feel right at home. Her passion for supporting students is why she continues to work in Student Affairs. This will be Angelia’s first year participating in HFSA and is excited for this role as Fiesta Chair.
Chair: Jewel Talbert
Jewel Talbert (she/her) grew up in Yoakum, Texas, a small town in South Central Texas. She is a Senior Program Coordinator for at the Graduation Help Desk in the School of Undergraduate Studies. She was a first-generation student who earned her bachelor’s degree in management at Texas A&M University and a masters of higher education at the University of Texas.
Jewel began her higher education career as the student director of her first-generation support program and a peer-recruiter at Texas A&M where she developed a passion for student support and higher education equity. She has been with the University of Texas for six years in roles related to financial aid, first-generation support, retention and graduation, and student success.
Jewel has been a member of HSFA for two years and is looking forward to her new role as scholarship chair.
Staff Equity & Inclusion Task Force