On October 1, 2016, the University of Illinois student chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) welcomed more than 250 participants from 20 different colleges and universities to the Business Instructional Facility on the University of Illinois Campus for the 2016 ALPFA Annual Regional Student Symposium.
Founded in 1972, ALPFA is one of the oldest Latino professional organizations, with over 72,000 professional and student members. On the University of Illinois campus, ALPFA works to create opportunities, add value, and build relationships among its members, the community, and business partners. ALPFA also represents and serves as a voice for Latino students within the College of Business.
The theme of this year’s Regional Student Symposium was “Latino Millennials: Developing Your Strategy to Succeed in Your Career.” Rebecca Monarrez, president of the Illinois ALPFA student chapter, oversaw the organization and running of the symposium. “The goal of this event was for all of us to come together and pretty much celebrate ALPFA and Latino professionals,” she said.
Though ALPFA began as a professional and student organization geared toward professionals in finance and accounting, its current focus is on nurturing and supporting all Latino professionals. The student chapter is the same. “We believe we can be an organization that really does empower the Latino community here,” Monarrez said. “Not just business majors, but other leadership majors. We have financial planners, and we have kinesiology majors. It’s really about empowering our members to be confident.”
The keynote speakers for the symposium were Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval and Illinois Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti. “They were so successful, and they related their backgrounds to our backgrounds, and family, which is a big part of the Latino community,” Monarrez said.
Workshops held during the symposium covered such topics as “Tú! Leveraging Your Latino Values to Build Your Personal Brand,” “Effective Listening,” “Building a Foundation for Success,” and “Lead without a Title: How Anyone, Anywhere Can Make a Positive Difference.” These workshops were sponsored by major companies such as KPMG, RSM, Ernst & Young, Cargill, Altria, and Dell. The lead partner for the symposium was the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Sixteen companies and organizations had representatives at the job fair held in conjunction with the symposium.
Associate Dean for Advancement Mauricio Gonzalez Sfeir was very helpful to the student chapter in planning the event and in securing speakers. He felt very strongly that this would be a positive experience for participants and a great way to showcase the College . “This was a tremendous opportunity for people to see what a wonderfully inclusive environment we have for business studies here at the College of Business,” he said.
To help open up the conference to as many people as possible, Monarrez and her team worked with sponsors to underwrite the cost of the event. As a result of their efforts, the symposium was free to all attendees. They did this “in hopes of exposing people to ALPFA as an organization but also to make this a bigger event,” Monarrez said.
Monarrez and Gonzalez Sfeir both had high praise for the work Illinois students put in to make the event a success. “The students were excellent,” said Gonzalez Sfeir. “They did a great job getting people here. They made a lot of social media awareness. They were just involved all around and helping out in all the different fronts.”
“I got a lot of compliments about my board,” Monarrez said. “I am very proud of them. People from the College of Business and ALPFA national were saying how great they were at organizing everything. And really do think it’s because they were Illinois students.”
Monarrez also had praise for the willingness of the College of Business to help with getting the event off the ground. Dean Jeffrey R. Brown assisted with negotiations with ALPFA national to bring the event to the University of Illinois. “It was really great as a student to see the College of Business collaborate with our organization,” she said.
In the end, all the headaches and stress of planning, organizing, and running the event were worth it. “I really do wish I could do it again,” Monarrez said. “It was one of the best days of my professional life.”