Speaker Biographies

Beyond the Numbers: Getting the Story on Latino Education

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad covers Chicago schools, the classrooms and youth culture. Cardona-Maguigad’s career in journalism began in Back of the Yards, a mostly immigrant neighborhood located in the Southwest Side of Chicago. There, she co-founded and led a bilingual community news publication— a newspaper that shaped her love for journalism. She is a 2012 WBEZ Pritzker Fellow and was part of the inaugural class of Northwestern University’s Social Justice News Nexus fellowship program. She worked on a 2015 award-winning audio documentary for WBEZ and NPR’s This American Life about unregulated drug rehab centers in Chicago drawing people from Puerto Rico. Her investigation was recognized with a Sigma Delta Chi Award with the Society of Professional Journalists, a 2016 National Edward R. Murrow Award and three Peter Lisagor Awards. Prior to joining WBEZ’s education team, Cardona-Maguigad worked at Univision Chicago as an investigative reporter and producer. She was honored with two Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Awards during her time there. Cardona-Maguigad graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where she earned a B.A. in International Studies. She is originally from Medellin, Colombia. She  has been a Chicago resident since 2005.

Wil Del Pilar is vice president of higher education policy and practice for The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that promotes closing educational opportunity gaps. Previously, he served in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s administration as deputy secretary of postsecondary and higher education. He also held senior development positions at The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Florida’s Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. Del Pilar holds a doctorate in higher education/higher education administration from The Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree from California State University-Dominguez Hills and a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University.

Cecilia Flores is a college adviser at Juarez-Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor of arts in psychology and a bachelor of arts in Iberian and Latin American languages and cultures. She is originally from Eagle Pass, Texas, and recently moved to the Rio Grande Valley after graduating from UT Austin. Flores is a Gates Millennium recipient and was a member of the University Leadership Network at UT. She is currently involved in the AmeriCorps Program and the National College Advising Corps Program. She is very passionate about assisting and providing resources to students who are interested in attending college. She hopes to be able to continue her work and one day have her own organization focusing on promoting higher education.

Nelson Flores is an associate professor of educational linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. His research examines the intersections of language and race in bilingual education with the goal of promoting more equitable programs for language-minoritized students. He previously served as project director for the CUNY-New York State Initiative on Emergent Bilinguals, a New York State Education Department-funded initiative that seeks to improve the educational outcomes of emergent bilingual students through an intensive seminar series for school leaders combined with on-site support by CUNY faculty. He currently serves as the principal investigator of the Philadelphia Bilingual Education Project (PBEP) that seeks to examine the historical and contemporary cultural politics of bilingual education in The School District of Philadelphia and work with bilingual teachers to increase equity in their classrooms. He is also involved with The Center on Standards, Alignment, Instruction, and Learning (C-SAIL), an IES-funded project that examines how various college- and career-ready standards are implemented, if they improve student learning, and what instructional tools measure and support their implementation. He is leading the study of the implementation of the College and Career Ready Standards for English Language Learners (ELL). Flores also serves as an expert and advisor on ELLs for other branches of C-SAIL.

Stella M. Flores is associate dean for Faculty Development and Diversity and Associate Professor of Higher Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She is also director of Access and Equity at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at NYU. Flores holds a doctorate in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University, a master’s from Harvard University, a master’s from The University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s degree from Rice University. In her research, she employs quantitative methods to examine large-scale databases for grades K through 20, to investigate the effects of state and federal policies on college access and completion rates for low-income and underrepresented populations. Flores has written about demographic changes in U.S. education, the role of alternative admissions plans and financial aid programs in college admissions in the U.S and abroad, Minority Serving Institutions, Latino and immigrant students, English Language Learners and community colleges.

George Garcia grew up in Brownsville,Texas. Although his parents dropped out of middle school, they realized the importance of an education and instilled in him a desire to attain a proper education. He started college at The University of Texas at Brownsville, where he studied engineering basics. Garcia then transferred to UT Austin, where he was able to collaborate on various research projects. One of those was the Innovation Station, which was an online-based 3D printing machine open to the university public with the aim of increasing access to 3D printers. In his last two years of college, Garcia served as a mentor to first-year engineering students. After graduating in May 2017, Garcia spent his summer working on two research projects at UT’s Microelectronics Research Center and at UT’s Transportation Group. Currently, he is training to be a flight controller at Johnson Space Center in the Operations Support Officer group, which is responsible for supporting on-orbit maintenance in the International Space Station (ISS) and also for berthing incoming vehicles to the ISS.

Tanya I. Garcia is an associate director of Postsecondary Policy Research & associate research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. She is currently focused on examining sub-baccalaureate credentials as well as supporting states integrating postsecondary and labor market data as tools to improve policy and practice. Previous stints at the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) Association and the New Mexico Higher Education Department influenced her belief in the power of data to improve equity and foster student-centered institutions. While at SHEEO, Garcia designed and conducted a national study on state postsecondary data systems that culminated in the Strong Foundations reports. In New Mexico, she led the development of the statewide dual credit program to increase the number of high school students taking college courses. A first generation student, Garcia earned her doctorate in public administration at American University and her master’s in higher education administration from The George Washington University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a bachelor’s in biology at Florida International University.

Ana Gonzalez-Barrera is a senior researcher at Pew Research Center. She is an expert on U.S. immigration, particularly on Mexican immigration to the U.S. and border apprehensions and deportations. She also has extensive experience analyzing and surveying the Hispanic population in the U.S. Before joining Pew Research Center in 2011, she served as director of population distribution at the Mexican Population Council (CONAPO). Prior to that, she worked for more than four years at CIDE in Mexico, where she coordinated two rounds of the Mexico and the Americas public opinion survey in 2004 and 2010. She received a master’s degree from the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, where she was a Fulbright-Garcia Robles scholar. She is an author of An Awakened Giant: the Hispanic Electorate Is Likely to Double by 2030, The Path Not Taken: Two-thirds of Legal Mexican Immigrants are not U.S. Citizens, and More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S., among others.

Kyra Gurney is a reporter at the Miami Herald, where she previously covered the Miami-Dade school district. She currently covers the city of Miami Beach. Before moving to Miami, Gurney was a reporter at InSight Crime, a nonprofit investigative journalism outlet based in Colombia that covers organized crime and corruption in Latin America. Gurney has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. She’s from Albuquerque, N.M.

Caroline Hendrie is the executive director of the Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for members of the news media who cover education. She leads strategy, development and programming for the nonprofit organization in support of its mission to strengthen the community of education writers and improve the quality of education coverage to better inform the public. Hendrie was herself an award-winning education journalist for more than two decades, with experience covering education from early learning through postsecondary schooling at the local, state and national levels. From 1996 to 2010, Hendrie held various reporting and editing positions, including managing editor, at Education Week. Hendrie started at daily newspapers in Connecticut and spent seven years as state education writer and editor at The Record, a daily newspaper based in Bergen County, N.J. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University.

Karla Hernández-Mats is a first-generation American of Honduran descent born and raised in Miami. She is the first Hispanic officer to be elected to United Teachers of Dade, the largest labor union in the Southeast United States. Hernández-Mats served a three-year term as Secretary/Treasurer starting in 2013 and was elected President in February 2016. She has a master’s degree in business management from St. Thomas University and a bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in emotionally handicapped education. Hernández-Mats taught students with special needs for nearly 10 years and was honored as Teacher of the Year at Hialeah Middle School in 2010 prior to being elected to office. Her goal as a leader is to have a profound impact on education policy and ensure a sound future for all children attending Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Tania Hogan was born in Acapulco, Mexico, and now lives in Lakewood, Colo. She currently works at the University of Colorado Denver Campus with the NxtGEN Undergraduate Teacher Preparation Program as a residency coordinator and instructor. She is also the director of the School of Education and Human Development Student Success Center.  Previously, she worked for Denver Public School for 16 years in different roles: bilingual ELA-S teacher, reading interventionist, UCD Site Coordinator, Literacy, Language and Cultural Studies Facilitator and Teacher Leader. She received her   master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on bilingual education and her bachelor’s degree in psychology, both from the University of Colorado at Denver. Currently, she is pursuing her doctorate degree in Leadership and Educational Equity with an emphasis on Latin@ Learners and Communities. 

Julia Keleher was appointed  Secretary of Education of Puerto Rico by the island’s governor  in 2017. She has spent nearly 20 years working in education, including as a manager at the U.S. Department of Education, where she focused on using data and analytics to inform grants planning and management. Keleher completed her M.B.A. in June 2013 and holds a doctorate degree from the University of Delaware. She earned her master’s  in psychological services and her bachelor’s degree  in political science from the University Pennsylvania. Keleher is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University’s Business School.

Judith Marty is the founding principal of Mater Academy Middle/High School, which opened its doors in 2002 and has been named one of the top high schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek. his Ninety-nine percent of the school’s 3,400 students are classified as minorities. Marty has worked as a sixth grade classroom teacher, a middle school guidance counselor, a high school assistant principal and a college administrator. She holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Miami.

Brenda Medina covers immigration and diversity for the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, where she has worked for six years. Her prior experience includes covering crime, local government, housing and labor, among other issues. In 2016, she was chosen as a Gabriel Garcia Marquez cultural journalism fellow by the Fundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano, and traveled to Colombia to learn about Cartagena’s African roots and its people. In 2014, Medina received the Bringing Home the World fellowship from the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

Before working at the Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald, she was a reporter at El Sentinel, the Sun Sentinel‘s Spanish weekly, in 2012. In 2011, she interned at The Chronicle of Higher Education, in Washington D.C., and was a NAHJ/NAHP Ford Blue Oval intern at El Nuevo Herald. Medina studied journalism and international studies at the University of South Florida and studied abroad in Sao Luis, Maranhao, Brazil, where she obtained a certification in Brazilian Portuguese.

Luis Maldonado has served as the chief advocacy officer at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) since 2014. He aids the president and CEO of HACU by directing and coordinating activities that advance the mission of the association and is the senior official at the association’s Washington, D.C., office. He has previously worked in advocacy, policy or government relations roles for the Council on Foundations, the American Diabetes Association, TOSCO, Laureate Education and The George Washington University Medical Center. Maldonado has a master’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland at College Park. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico but now calls the state of Maryland home.

Debbie Mortham moved to Tallahassee from Miami for Governor Jeb Bush’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign and has lived in the capital city ever since.Since 2015, she has been the Florida Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a nonprofit that advocates for charters and school choice. Previously, she served as the executive vice president of the Florida Coalition for Children, where she represented and advocated for the child welfare providers and community-based care agencies across the state. Prior to that, Mortham worked at the state of Florida’s Department of Children and Families’ Legislative Affairs Office for State Representative Miguel DeGrandy and the Republican Party of Florida as the South Region Field Director. She began her career as community relations coordinator at the CBS-owned station in South Florida. Born and raised in Miami, Mortham is a graduate of the University of Miami where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology (minors in chemistry and news-editorial journalism). The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she is fluent in Spanish.

Aurelio M. Montemayor is a senior education associate and lead trainer for the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), a San Antonio-based nonprofit that advocates for public schools. His career in education spans four decades and has included teaching at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels. Montemayor received a master’s degree in bilingual education from Antioch Graduate School of Education in Ohio and a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from St. Edward’s University Austin. Montemayor currently directs IDRA’s Education CAFE work  and was instrumental in co-designing and implementing IDRA’s federally funded parent information and resource center: Texas IDRA PIRC. Montemayor has served on several national boards, including the National PTA, Parents for Public Schools (PPS) and the National Association for Bilingual Education. He has directed efforts to create and support collaborative efforts such as the Texas Latino Education Coalition, the San Antonio Coalition for Educational Excellence and Parents Bilingual Education.

Milagros Nores is co-director for research at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Her expertise and interests are in early childhood development, data-driven policy development, evaluation design, economics, cultural diversity and English language learning. Nores currently runs an early childhood study in Colombia, a study on parental-child educational practices for minority children in the U.S. and evaluations of West Virginia’s  and Seattle’s preschool programs. She has a Ph.D. in education and economics from Columbia University and an Ed.M. in educational administration and social policy from Harvard University. Nores previously worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the Taubman Center in Public Policy, Brown University, where she taught education policy in a comparative perspective and economics of public policy. Nores also consults for various organizations in education projects in Latin America and Asia.

Ryan W. Pontier is a bilingual consultant, teacher educator, researcher, coach, trainer, keynote speaker and advocate for bilingualism and bilingual education. He earned a Ph.D. in Language and Literacy Learning in Multilingual Settings from the University of Miami, an M.S.Ed. in reading from the University of Miami, and a B.A. from Boston College in Hispanic studies. He began his career in education with Teach For America in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas where he taught third grade at a dual language bilingual education elementary school in Donna. He then taught second grade at a dual language charter school in Miami before working as the dean of students and associate site director with Breakthrough Miami, an educational nonprofit organization that prepares economically, linguistically and culturally diverse students for rigorous high school and college entry. Currently, Pontier teaches in the School of Education at Florida International University. He has served as an expert in bilingualism and bilingual education for the United Way of Miami Center for Excellence in Early Education and for, President of Miami-Dade TESOL and Bilingual Education Association, President of the Early Childhood Bilingual Education Council for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Vice-Chair of the LULAC Florida Media & Government Relations Committee and Fellow with the Miami Fellows program through the Miami Foundation. He and his wife are raising two bilingual daughters.

Michele Siqueiros is the president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit that promotes higher education access and achievement, especially among historically disadvantaged groups. Siqueiros  has been with the Campaign since 2004, serving first as the associate director and the past seven years as executive director and was named president in 2014.

Francisco Vara-Orta is a data specialist and staff writer for Education Week who covers school resources and philanthropy, parent empowerment and community engagement, as well as works on data-driven projects with colleagues and media partners. He most recently completed a graduate student fellowship where he studied data and investigative journalism and public policy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. While at Mizzou, he also worked as a data and resource library research assistant in the Investigative Reporters and Editors headquarters on campus. Prior to that, he was a reporter at the San Antonio Express-News covering education for nearly five years. He has also been a staff writer and reporter for the Austin Business Journal, Los Angeles Business Journal, Los Angeles Times and La Prensa, a bilingual newspaper in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Vara-Orta also serves as Vice President of Journalists for the Education Writers Association, a professional organization dating back over 70 years that represents more than 3,000 members of the media who cover education at all levels.

Betty Viamontes is the assistant vice president of Resource Management and Development for the Student Affairs and Students Success division of the University of South Florida. She was born in Havana, Cuba. While working full time and raising her son, Viamontes completed her undergraduate degree in accounting and two master’s degrees, one in accounting and one in business administration, both from the University of South Florida. In 2015, Governor Scott appointed her to the Hillsborough Community College Board of Trustees. She is a CPA who previously worked as the corporate controller at Tampa General Hospital. In 2015, as a tribute to her mother, Viamontes published a memoir-style novel based on her family’s life in Cuba entitled “Waiting on Zapote Street.”

Leslie Villegas is an associate policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, where she works with the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy on K-12 education issues affecting immigrant children and their families. She is conducting research on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and working with a network of organizations in seven states that ensure English Learners are provided with equitable and accountable public education services. Villegas worked for the California Legislature in various capacities, including public policy researcher, analyst and advisor, as well as government relations and community outreach representative for various elected officials. She holds a master’s degree in international development from the University of Edinburgh and a bachelor’s of arts degree in political science from California State University, Sacramento.