Liliana Diaz-Solodukhin, a second year Ph.D. student studying higher education at the University of Denver, is a civic leader who has engaged in community based participatory research, capacity building for community organizations, and public policy leadership. As a child of Mexican immigrants and first-generation college student, Liliana has experiential expertise about the nexus between college access and civic engagement. When Liliana completes her Ph.D., she will be among just one percent of Latino adults in the U.S. who hold doctoral degrees. For Liliana, a doctorate is an expanded platform to create social change. Liliana is a collaborative leader who draws on her network of policymakers, community, nonprofit and postsecondary leaders to effect change. She has deep familiarity with the state's political and social landscape and uses this knowledge to promote positive civic change. In educating herself about civic engagement scholarship, Liliana was dismayed to discover that much of the research about Latinos paints a deficit-based picture about these communities that fails to capture the civic contributions they make. As a result, Liliana is planning to examine the civic behaviors of Latinos in her dissertation so that she can educate the civic engagement field about the important contributions of these individuals.
As a first-generation student with limited financial and social resources, it was those few but critical individuals that helped me achieve my educational and professional goals. Today, I am privileged with the skillset necessary to continue on this journey and recognize the individuals who took time to mentor and guide me. It is for this reason that I engage in community work that seeks to assist students and their families with pursuit of their own educational goals. In order to maximize my ability to pay it forward, I have worked with organizations whose mission it is to assist students and their families on this same journey. In 2017, I was honored to serve as President of Colorado Council on High School/College Relations, a 500+ member organization that educates and assists students with their postsecondary educational goals. I recently ended my six-year tenure as the Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator for College Goal Colorado, a national volunteer-based organization dedicated to assisting families with FAFSA completion and financial aid literacy. Today, I continue this work as a way to say thank you to those who made my goals a reality.