Maria Alejandro, Community of Practice Fellow for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge at Civic Nation.
Maria Alejandro grew up in the border town of Eagle Pass along the Texas/Mexico border reflecting her roots and connection to family in Mexico City. Her commitment toward working in community and civic participation originates from her upbringing with her great-grandmother and grandmothers and was strengthened by her participation, during her undergraduate studies, in international travel seminars to Latin America with the Center for Global Education, Augsburg College studying sustainable development, indigenous representation, culture and women’s studies in Guatemala, southern Mexico and Nicaragua. Maria is bilingual in Spanish.
She aspires to explore her indigenous roots and government systems and obtained her undergraduate degree in Native American Studies with a minor in Political Science from the University of the Incarnate Word and is pursuing a Master of Political Science at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her interests include civic engagement, sustainable community development, culture, collective decision-making, and inclusive democracy engagement.
Over the past 20+ years, Maria has dedicated her efforts to contributing to community development through grassroots community leadership while working with nonprofit organizations, government, and academia. She served as a city council aide under the leadership of former Councilmember Elena Guajardo where her work included obtaining community input on upcoming agenda items and district projects and represented the office in various municipal, county and community committees. Working in municipal government strengthened the understanding that inclusive participation is key to strengthening democratic engagement and policy development.
Maria gained invaluable experience working with community at the Community Leadership Institute (CLI), where she was Program Director then Executive Director. It is at CLI where she gained participatory facilitation skills using methods such as Technology of Participation ToP® Group Facilitation Methods, World Café, Open Space and others which were applied to bring diverse groups together to create community centered action plans as part of the Community Leadership Institute requirements. At the Texas A&M University Colonias Program, she served as Development Program Coordinator where she oversaw fundraising, grant management and strategic partnership building for three regional offices that span the Texas/Mexico border to include overseeing program development with staff for the Central Texas region including San Antonio and Austin. She served as a Community Health Worker Instructor and was responsible for hosting CHW conferences to provide CEUs. In addition, she served as a liaison to university departments and colleges to coordinate service-learning opportunities in the regions. While at TAMU Colonias Program she reimplemented the AmeriCorps Vista program for all three border regions and the central Texas region with a team of ten. She currently serves as the Director of the UTSA Office of Civic & Community-Engaged Learning whose mission is to empower students, faculty and staff to serve society through community engaged scholarship, social responsibility and democratic engagement. Maria oversees the Rowdy Corps Community Scholars program, a community-based work-study program, civic literacy, and capacity building across campus, and is responsible for providing support for community-engaged learning including hosting the Community-Engaged Leadership Certificate.
Maria is a graduate of the CLI’s Executive Leadership Series, Leadership UTSA, Race Equity Institute, founding member and graduate of the San Antonio Compassionate Integrity Institute. She has serves as a volunteer facilitator for community public input sessions such as the Mayor’s Housing Summit in 2017. In 2010, she served on the initial SA2020 advisory committee for the development of the Citizen’s Bill of Rights as part of the Civic Engagement and Government Accountability. In 2020, Maria served as SA2020 Ambassador and 2030 Community Vision Content Expert.
She currently serves on the San Antonio Education Partners Race Equity Institute’s Advisory Board, chairs the UTSA Academic Success & University College Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee, member of the Inclusive Excellence Advisory Board, and La Raza Faculty and Staff and the Service-Learning Intercollegiate Collaborative.
Maria has lived in San Antonio for over 27 years after a brief stay in San Francisco. She enjoys frequent travel to Mexico to be with family as well as reading, yoga, cycling, hiking, spending time with her fur babies and acting as a shameless groupie at her son’s various musical performances.