As an undergrad, Guillermo Ortiz, A&S '14, didn't know many fellow Latino students. He wasn't a member of OLÉ, the on-campus student organization dedicated to celebrating Latino history and culture, opting instead to spend more time studying than expanding his social circle. "I just developed friendships with the folks who lived around me who I saw every day," he says.
That changed once Ortiz became a public policy fellow at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and began taking more of a leadership role as a future Latino policymaker. So when Christian Echevarria, A&S '15, a hallmate from Ortiz's first year at Hopkins, approached him about starting an affinity group for Latino alumni, he jumped at the chance. The result is Hopkins Organization of Latino/a/x Alumni (HOLA), which has hosted many networking events since getting off the ground in 2017, including two recent virtual happy hours in partnership with the Alumni Society, a members-based group of Latino graduates from 18 of the country's top universities. Johns Hopkins joined the Alumni Society in late 2019.
"What I loved is the diversity, not only in terms of the Latinx experience but also in terms of age," Ortiz says. "Hearing that breadth of experience and seeing how the experience of these alumni has changed over the years was really great."
Membership to the Alumni Society is free, and the organization provides recruiting services for companies with a commitment to inclusion and diversity such as Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and Nike. Ortiz believes the relationship will bolster Hopkins' standing among students weighing offers from other competitive schools. "I think students of color are going to be looking at not only how they're supported during their time at the institution but as alumni," he says, "and I think institutions that serve those needs will be much more capable of recruiting high-level, diverse talent."
Elena Thompson, Hopkins' senior associate director of Affinity Engagement, also recognizes the benefit of collaborative programming: "If you join us as an alum, you have the opportunity to participate in these very well-executed, high-level networking opportunities focused on the Latinx community in addition to the unique programming created by Hopkins."