Making a Difference: Heidi Pineda’s Path of Empowering Others

After graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2023 with a B.A. in Political Science and Latino & Latin American Studies, Heidi Pineda remains a passionate supporter of empowerment and inclusivity. Her path—one characterized by her leadership on-campus and strong dedication to helping others—highlights an ability to integrate identity into professional goals. Heidi is a great example of the significant effects of matching personal principles with career goals.  

During her time at UConn, Heidi was involved in several on-campus organizations and departments. Her positions included Peer Facilitator for the Violence Against Women Prevention Program, Student Mentor for The Major Experience, and Diversity Equity and Inclusion Ambassador Program Coordinator at the Center for Career Development. Throughout each of these experiences, Heidi fostered her love of helping others. She was also named the recipient of the 2023 Outstanding Senior Women Academic Achievement Award.  

Among the many projects she completed at UConn, she described her collaboration with El Instituto to be especially meaningful. She met with leadership at El Instituto to discuss how the Latino Studies major could lead to different careers. During those conversations, she saw an opening as a mentor for The Major Experience and stepped into that role too. Using that platform, she had the opportunity to connect with students and help them to tailor the Latino Studies major to pursue their passions. 

Mentoring fellow students came with some challenges but was very impactful. Heidi shared that while she knew she didn’t go through everyone’s experiences, she could still understand what they were going through on a peer level which helped her be a better mentor. 

“I think that because I am interested in student affairs, [mentoring] did help me both realize what I wanted to do and build the skills so that I could gain other opportunities like discovering what functional area I wanted to be in.” 

Outside of the mentorship program, Heidi found her passion project: re-establishing Distinguished and Motivated Academic Scholars (D.A.M.A.S.). The organization is a Latina/x focused, but not exclusive and they strive to “support [their] members’ academic achievement, professional development and empowerment.” She had learned about D.A.M.A.S. when she toured UConn, but the organization went inactive during the COVID-19 pandemic. When Heidi returned to campus, she made connections at the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) and was able to reboot the organization with the help of her friends.  

After a summer internship opportunity, Heidi reached out to Dr. Gebelein at El Instituto, who helped her find the position as Outreach and Programming Intern at the Center for Career Development. She was previously a recipient of the Opportunity Fund, a scholarship that aimed to help students be able to participate in different experiential learning opportunities. The position at the Center was her first office job, but with support and guidance from her supervisor, she felt confident in the new environment.  When she returned for her second internship at the Center, she stepped into a new role as Diversity Equity and Inclusion Ambassador Program Coordinator. In the new position, Heidi collaborated with professional staff at the Center for Career Development to design a DE&I program for student ambassadors. She looked at how identity can factor into a student’s career journey and how the Center could really connect with them.  

Heidi’s time at UConn was filled with many projects and experiences that she was truly enthusiastic about. When asked about her involvement with different departments and programs, she shared that she felt lucky to have access to the opportunities. She also gave advice to students who may be interested in starting one of their own.  

“A big part of the way I started projects was by asking questions. If someone won’t answer your questions, go ask someone else… Keep asking and finding those mentors who will answer your questions or connect you with someone who can help is really big.” 

Now a master’s student at Michigan State University, Heidi is currently working towards a graduate certificate in Chicano/Latino Studies and M.A. in Student Affairs Administration. In her current practicum experience, she works to provide students from migrant farmworker families with access to an education which is in line with the type of work she wants to do in the future. She hopes to focus on serving the Latino and first-generation communities and being a pathway to finding a job or career.  

Ask questions and gain advice by making an appointment with a career coach and take control of your career development journey by enrolling in our Career Readiness Modules.

By Lily Guberman
Lily Guberman Marketing Assistant