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Meet Claudia Hernández-Ponce

Claudia Hernández-Ponce
University of Denver

How did you become the Associate Director of Diversity Enrollment & College Access Initiatives at the University of Denver? What made you decide to get into this field?

Before working for the University of Denver, I had the opportunity to work at the Colorado Department of Higher Education where I developed partnerships with private and public sector groups to advance our mutual goals of removing financial barriers to access college. The position required me to travel the state of Colorado twelve months a year and to help guide students and families of all backgrounds through the college financial aid process. After two-and-a-half years, I accepted an offer to work with the Denver Public Schools and expand my horizons and work with homeless and unaccompanied youth in our district by providing post-secondary/academic resources.  In many ways, my love and passion for higher education led me to work at the University of Denver.

What is your favorite part of the job?

As a Mexican-born, first-generation Latina, I have directly seen the obstacles first-generation students -- and their families -- face in making decisions and navigating the college admission process. My favorite part of the job is being able to work for a highly-selective private institution and providing the access for students like me to not only see the University of Denver as an option, but to see them thrive on campus and bear witness to one of their greatest accomplishments – graduation. 

How has NACAC played a role in your career?

I’ve learned that NACAC is kind of like a gym membership. If you don’t use it – you won’t see the results. I spent the first couple of years just trying to learn my way around the organization, the resources it provided and how to get involved.  It wasn’t until 2015, when I decided to join my affiliate board (RMACAC), that I also made the decision to engage with NACAC by applying for the Admission Professional Summer Institute. During the seminar, we learned so much about the work organizations are doing in regards to diversity, inclusion, and financial aid work and it completely transformed the way I saw my work and the impact it has on the national level. Since then, I have met some amazing colleagues who I have had the pleasure to serve on the RMACAC board with and who have invited me to join forces and co-present with them at NACAC conferences. I encourage anyone who hasn’t engaged with NACAC to do so in any capacity. It has truly contributed to my professional growth.

What drew you to attending GWI this year?

I have always been invested in my personal and professional growth. The past couple of years I have continued to attend similar conferences and decided to change it up this year and broaden my knowledge and understanding of the profession. After speaking with one of my mentors, I was advised to consider GWI as it would allow me to gain more knowledge of higher education and how to expand access and advocacy for all students. I am looking forward to engaging in conversation with like-minded professionals to allow me to provide a unique prospective on how to inform, evaluate, and improve practice and policy impacting higher education.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

Sleep, eat, and travel (photograph) the world.

Describe yourself in five words.

Talented. Adventurous. Weird. Passionate. Inspirational.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I currently serve as the NACAC Latino/Hispanic SIG Co-Leader and I want to invite anyone who is responsible for the counseling, guidance, education, recruitment and transition (from high school to college) of Latino/Hispanic students to connect with our NACAC Facebook group. Our group oversees the dissemination, discussion and representation of all related topics, issues, and trends relevant to Latino/Hispanic college admission counseling.

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