“I have always intended these lists to highlight the beauty of the diversity in our community,” wrote Madison 365 publisher and Chief Executive Officer Henry Sanders Jr. “I wanted young people here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for people of color to achieve great things here and to highlight people of color doing great work in a variety of fields and pursuits.”
Sanchez’s father, Emilio, a Mexican immigrant, and her mother, Helen Capetillo, encouraged their daughter to attend college, even though Sanchez felt unsure she was college material at first.
After graduating with her degree in communications studies and political science from Winona (Minn.) State University, Sanchez worked in the private sector in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area for five years.
During that time, she volunteered at college fairs in the Twin Cities to encourage others to attend college and realized she wanted to work with students full time in admissions.
Sanchez started working in admissions at UW-La Crosse and earned a master’s degree in student affairs administration from the university.
She started at UW-Stout nearly 10 years ago. In addition to working in Multicultural Student Services advising students from different backgrounds, Sanchez also advised Latinos Unidos and Black Student Union student organizations.
“My goal is to promote higher education,” Sanchez said. “I would talk about why it is important to get an education. I always tell my students you need to finish your degree. You have to get from point A to D. You get admitted and then you get that degree.”
The support system at UW-Stout helps make sure students do just that, Sanchez said. “My job is the retention of underrepresented minority students,” she noted.
“It’s a world I know,” she said. “My job is personal to me. What has been a personal goal has now become a passion. I have seen a lot of students graduate and flourish. It’s has been an amazing part of my professional career.”
Sanchez believes intentional focus on working with students of color makes a difference in their college experience. The environment where students are learning is a critical piece in their development, retention and graduation.
“We want our alumni’s stories to be ones they can reflect on proudly, knowing their campus supported them in both their challenges and triumphs,” Sanchez said.
She believes in intentional advising, which entails assisting students in their college navigation from financial literacy and academics to career and personal leadership.
Sanchez also educates on cultural competency as it relates to self-awareness and other-awareness through teaching the intercultural development framework and conflict styles; microaggressions; and providing a space for courageous conversations.
Her goal is to create an environment where students feel heard, valued and welcomed to affirm they belong on campus.
“I understand a lot of pressures students have,” Sanchez said. “My goal is to inspire and let them take it from there. I love being student-centered. That is why I do what I do to help students through their college experiences and at the same time to help them understand their talents and abilities and gifts.”
UW-Stout has just over an 11% underrepresented minority population of students. The university has 842 undergraduate minority students and 129 minority graduate students.
UW-Stout offers Stoutward Bound, a learning and living community for first-year American ethnic minority students; Sanchez is a part of that program. Students move to campus two weeks before the start of the fall semester and participate in workshops on transitioning to college. They take general psychology and fundamentals of speech courses together.
The university also has a multicultural living community next year experience that allows students to learn about cultural competencies and goal setting.
Sanchez said she was humbled to be named to the list by Madison 365.
“I’m just doing what I am meant to do,” Sanchez said. “I appreciate it. My hope is to inspire inspiration.”
Sanders hopes readers learn something from the listing about real leaders in Wisconsin communities. “It’s critical to recognize and highlight our neighbors whose stories begin elsewhere, or who trace their roots to other parts of the world,” Sanders wrote. “Only then will we truly appreciate the contributions we all make to the prosperity of our communities, our state and our nation.”