UHD Students Go to Washington
UHD’s Dietrich von Biedenfeld Leads Students to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Conference
By Laura Wagner
On Sept. 13, UHD Marilyn Davies College of Business (MDCOB) Assistant Professor Dietrich von Biedenfeld, J.D., and six UHD students headed to Washington, D.C., for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) 2022 Leadership Conference and 45th Annual Awards Gala.
Touted as the largest celebration of Latino excellence in the nation, CHCI featured the theme “Rooted in Strength, Achieving Our Dream” for the 2022 event, and included such luminaries as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as famed American labor leader, civil rights activist, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dolores Huerta.
The event was a significant reminder for the UHD students of the importance of leading their communities in the fight for educational justice, equity, and inclusion. Students on the trip included senior Anayansi Rendon (International Business major), senior Andy Garcia (Accounting and Finance major), senior Mirella Hernandez (Accounting and Finance major), senior José Arroyo (Criminal Justice major), junior Marco Cruz Linares (Political Science major), and senior Damaris Sanchez (Political Science major). Several of the students provided eloquent reflections on the event and what it meant to them, below.
“I hope the students’ thoughts on their experiences inspire other students to sign up for this trip next year,” said von Biedenfeld (left). “When an event is important enough for the President and Vice President of the United States to attend, you know your cause matters. I hope and believe our students walked away from the CHCI experience understanding that what they’re doing today—earning their degrees—is positioning them for leadership roles tomorrow. Their actions matter for the Latinx communities they represent, especially as an example for Latinx students who follow them.”
CHCI is an organization dedicated to developing the next generation of Latino leaders®, providing leadership, public service, and policy experiences to outstanding Latinx students and young professionals. CHCI gathers Members of Congress and other public officials, corporate executives, nonprofit advocates, and thought leaders to discuss national issues relevant to the Hispanic community. For more information, visit CHCI.org.
Reflections on CHCI 2022
Attending the the CHCI Conference was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. Flying to Washington, D.C., was one of the first major things I got to do as a Mexican-American, first-generation college student. Meeting some of the key public figures (Dolores Huerta, Vice President Kamala Harris, and President Joe Biden) was the highlight of the Conference, as well as networking with other people who understand where I come from. I also learned tons about social issues that I did not even know existed. I want to thank Professor Von Biedenfeld for taking the time for the networking, opening my eyes, and generally making our trip to DC possible. To the Pre-Law Association and International Business Association, I give my sincerest thank you as well. I hope I get to do more events like this.
Marco Cruz Linares
I had the honor of traveling to Washington, D.C., for the CHCL conference with fellow members of the Pre-Law Association here at UHD. Being a first-generation college student and a DACA recipient, I never thought I would have the opportunity of attending such an event and meeting fellow Hispanics who are succeeding in their chosen field and who understand the struggles of being the first in your family to attend college. The highlight of the leadership conference for me was the speech by Vice President Kamala Harris. She noted that when we Hispanics or other minorities achieve something that no other member of our community has before, it is our responsibility to lay the roadwork and inspire others in our community to follow. As the Vice President put it, we have “the responsibility of inspiring people to see what they’ve not seen before,” like Dolores Huerta did when she fought to create the United Farmers Workers Union (UFW) in California in the 1960s. The Union ensured better working conditions for farm workers and better pay, among other achievements. Another memorable moment among many during this trip was seeing the 46th U.S. President Joe Biden sing Happy Birthday to Congresswoman Nanette Barragan from California at the Gala. During this trip, I also learned that CHCI offers a paid Congressional Internship program to students of any major. I plan on applying for the internship and have spoken to fellow students about them applying. This trip was possible thanks to the Pre-Law Association, who found the event and coordinated the planning. I want to thank Professor Von Biedenfeld for taking the time to join us on the trip, encouraging us to network, and providing valuable insight about places to visit in D.C. Finally, while my fellow Pre-Law members and I were the first from UHD to attend the CHCI Conference and Gala, we have agreed that we must ensure we are not the last.
I learned so much about the political views between each house. It gave me insight into how discrimination against certain groups is spread around the world. The trip to the Capitol building and transporting myself in a metro were memorable. There should be more opportunities like this one for students to network with professionals.
As a first-generation Mexican-American, I’ve had to be the first in my family to do a lot of things. I’m the first to go to college, the first to graduate college (December 2022), and I was the first to be able to attend the conference held by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). Although I always have the feeling I’m the first to have to do a lot of things, for once I was so grateful to be in a room full of people who truly know what it’s like to walk in my shoes. Our trip to D.C. was so insightful, inspiring, and most of all very productive. I want to take a moment to thank Professor Von Biedenfeld for taking the time to join us on our trip and not only for helping us but also for encouraging us to network throughout our time in D.C. This trip has truly motivated me to become more involved in public policy advocacy, which was something I hadn’t really thought about much in the past. I also want to thank the UHD Pre-Law Association and the International Business Association for being a part of making this experience possible. I hope to continue to be able to attend events like the one hosted by CHCI, and despite being the first in my family to do many things, I am now determined not to be the last.
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.