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NIU undergraduate recognized as Latina emerging leader

April 9, 2018

On Friday, April 20, Northern Illinois University senior Laura Vivaldo Cholula will receive the 2018 Emerging Leader Award from the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE).

Laura Vivaldo Cholula

The Emerging Leader award recognizes a student in Illinois who has made significant contributions to the Latinx higher education community through service and leadership. The award will be presented at this year’s ILACHE Professional and Student Development Conference, which will be held at Illinois State University.

In the words of Susana Das Neves, ILACHE conference chair and vice president of Academic and Professional Development, as well as a doctoral student at NIU, “ILACHE’s vision is to be the preeminent advocate, change agent and voice for Latinos/Latinas in Illinois higher education and collectively to increase the access, retention and advancement of Latinx students, faculty and staff in Illinois higher education institutions. It is with this in mind that every year we recognize not only the work of professionals, but also the impact Latinx students are making in higher education.”

Das Neves continues, “It’s refreshing to know that younger generations will have a brighter future because of leaders like Laura. I am extremely proud of her recognition as an emerging leader because it represents Laura’s personality, dedication and character.”

Cholula, a political science major and Latin American studies minor, is an aspiring lawyer with an interest in immigration and family law. She is currently the co-president of DREAM Action NIU, a student-run organization that advocates for undocumented students. She has also been a Huskie Service Scholar who served as a peer mentor and has been invited to speak to middle school and college students on the importance of higher education.

As part of the competitive Summer Research Opportunity Program at NIU, Cholula has conducted research for the NIU Latino Oral History Project, helping to document the experiences of Chicago-area immigrants. She also won the NIU Deacon Davis Diversity Award in 2017.

For Cholula, the ILACHE Emerging Leader Award is meaningful for many reasons. “Leadership has often been presented to me in the form of male leadership in academic institutions and within the workplace,” she says. “This award reaffirms that women of color are not just participating in student organizations but are the leaders.”

She continues, “To have this award recognize me as an emerging leader is an affirmation that my style of leadership is making an impact. My leadership model aims to uplift students, so they can find within themselves the skills they need to be the next leaders on our campus and in the community.”

In the words of Dr. Christina Abreu, director of the NIU Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, “Laura works tirelessly on behalf of undocumented students on campus, and she also serves on the center’s Student Advisory Council. We are very proud of her!”

“Without a doubt, Laura Vivaldo Cholula is a change agent,” says Das Neves. “She has paved the way for future NIU students to continue her quest for social justice and equality for all students.”