UHD ALPFA Student Chapter Attends National Convention
ALPFA Houston Chapter Recognized
By Sheryl E. Taylor
The toll of the pandemic affected in-person events across the nation; however, for the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) Convention, the attendance numbers continue to grow.
The UHD Chapter of ALPFA traveled to Orlando, Florida to attend this year’s convention, “The Road Traveled, The Road Ahead,” that also celebrated the national organization’s 50th anniversary. The event attracts more than 2,500 attendees over five days with Latinos representing 75% of attendees—60% professionals, and 40% college students.
“The convention provides a forum for students to make connections with industry professionals for mentorship, internship, and job placement,” said Dr. Christine Poleski, Assistant Dean of Marilyn Davies College of Business (MDCOB). “It also gives students an opportunity to engage with professionals in the roles to which they aspire. For many of our students who are the first in their family to attend college and become professionals, it’s critical for them to connect with organizations such as ALPFA to get the guidance they need to be successful after graduation.” Poleski served as chaperone to the 13 student members who attended the convention.
The annual convention is a win-win for professionals and students. According to its website, professionals engage with ALPFA: “to meet all of employee life cycle goals, from recruitment through promotion, as well as opportunities to create an engagement experience to motivate and inspire your existing employees while branding your organization as the place to work for entry-level and executive Latinx professionals alike.”
According to Maxine Todd, Assistant Director, MDCOB Career Center, UHD ALPFA members interviewed with such companies as Crowe, Deloitte, JP Morgan Chase, PNC Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Amazon, and Walmart, to name a few.
“These students deepened their knowledge about the competitive skills needed in their field through various conference sessions. Many secured professional contacts, and some, full-time employment and internship offers,” noted Todd. “If a student doesn’t have a lot of work experience, or much of a track record, employers embrace professional student organization involvement.”
Todd explained that being involved in a student organization, like ALPFA, demonstrates to employers key core competencies that companies look for—initiative, drive, teamwork, communications skills, leadership, and critical thinking. “Employers appreciate students taking responsibility for their future by seeking ways to improve their personal and professional development, and this is demonstrated through the student org experience,” she said.
For newly minted alumna Kimberly Castillo (’22), joining the UHD ALPFA Chapter offered much more than she expected. “I first got involved with ALPFA in my sophomore year during welcome week. At the time, I was an introverted student, but I wanted to put myself out there and start being more open-minded. I knew for sure that I wanted to be part of something where I could embrace my culture and ethnicity.” Last Spring, Castillo, who serves as Vice President of the UHD Chapter, earned a BBA In Management and is now pursuing a master’s in Finance at UHD.
“It's gratifying to see that our students stay connected to the ‘ALPFAmilia’ after graduation,” said Dr. Zahir Latheef, Associate Professor of Management and Faculty Advisor for the UHD ALPFA Chapter. “Many serve on ALPFA Houston’s leadership team where they now give back to our students as working professionals. The growth and development through ALPFA is a continuous cycle!”
ALPFA at UHD was established in 2016. Gator alums joined ALPFA Houston, a local chapter that supports working professionals. In fact, “these alumni so loved the experience of fellowship and networking they received from ALPFA that they encouraged our students to get a campus chapter started,” said Latheef. “To graduate and achieve success in their careers, students need to learn the content knowledge from their classes,” Latheef emphasized. “But that's not enough. They also need a strong professional network as well as mentors from their industry and community that can support them in their journey—at the national, regional, and local levels.”
UHD ALPFA Chapter President, Gabriela Perez (’21), echoes her fellow Gator and friend Castillo. “Once I started attending UHD, making friends, and joining ALPFA, I realized that UHD is a giant family and a beacon of hope for many students in Houston to have an affordable way to attend college while not sacrificing the quality of education,” said Perez, a first-generation student. “ALPFA is a great way to help me reach my career goals, because meetings like the ALPFA Convention and symposium are amazing tools to network, and a starting position to get your foot in the door. Joining a student organization is essential to the college experience academically and professionally.”
Clarissa Barboza (MBA, ’19) is a UHD alumna and working professional who gives back through ALPFA. “I always wanted to become involved with ALPFA as a student but just never did,” said the assistant corporate secretary for Bail USA. But it was a serendipitous moment at an event that encouraged her to get involved. “I was attending an event and met a woman who was wearing an ALPFA badge, and, right then and there, she convinced me to apply for a board position. I knew ALPFA was a prominent organization within the Hispanic community, and I always wanted to be a part of its legacy.”
Barboza’s MBA with a concentration in Leadership has served her well as an ALPFA Houston Chapter board member. The Houston Chapter’s success was recognized at this year’s convention as one of the best chapters in the country.
“ALPFA Houston works hard in everything we do, from corporate sponsorships to our social events, and it clearly showed during the awards banquet at the ALPFA Convention!” said Poleski. “While we are deeply humbled by this award, it is rewarding to know our efforts are being recognized. The best is yet to come for student chapters of ALPFA, UHD, and ALPFA Houston! We are paving the way to bring more diversity, equity, and inclusion into our places of employment and in our communities.”
Latheef underscores the power of ALPFA. “Student organizations like our ALPFA UHD Chapter play a key role in our students’ leadership development. It gives students an opportunity to hone their organizational skills and apply the management/business concepts they’re learning in class.”
As a first-generation college student, Castillo has advice for her fellow Gator students and alumni: “Join an organization, connect with your peers, and share ideas to help one another grow together, learn together, and succeed together. Not only do you gain friendships, but you also get exposed to career opportunities, networking, mentors, sponsorships, and lastly land job opportunities right out of college. Joining UHD ALPFA was one of the best decisions I ever made.”
She further added, “ALPFA opened a different world of new possibilities. It helped me build new friendships with students who became my study partners, who taught me what an elevator pitch is, how to network with professionals, and how to dress for success, the difference between public and private companies, and the different sectors within companies. ALPFA was my ultimate guide for surviving college and becoming career-ready.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.