Juana Bordas elected to Union Institute & University Board of Trustees

By July 6, 2014Alumni

CINCINNATI, OH -Juana Bordas, among the nation’s leading experts on Latino leadership and 2014 winner of the prestigious Nautilus Gold Book Award for The Power of Latino Leadership, has been elected to Union Institute & University’s Board of Trustees.

Dr. Roger Sublett, president of Union Institute & University, describes Bordas as “someone who indeed ‘leads from the heart’ every day of her life. Through her volunteerism, her support of women, her commitment to international leadership development, and her devotion to inner spirit, Juana Bordas is a most distinguished leader among leaders.”

A private, non-profit university headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio with academic centers in North Miami Beach, Florida; Brattleboro, Vermont; and Los Angeles and Sacramento, California is celebrating its 50th year of educating adults who seek academic programs that transform lives and communities.

Bordas is no stranger to transforming lives and communities. Impassioned by a long-held commitment to social justice and equality, she has dedicated a lifetime of work and service in support of diverse, ethical, and empowered leaders throughout the nation and the world.

Whether as a Peace Corps volunteer, working with low-income women in Chile, or as founding president of the National Hispana Leadership Institute, the only program in America committed to preparing Latinas for national leadership, Bordas has forged new ground as a distinguished and international servant-leader and has paved the path for future generations of Latino leadership.

As the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants in central Florida, Bordas understood from a very early age that women can—and must—provide support to each other in order to succeed and to institute change.  She recalls, “My parents spoke broken English, we were poor, I was small and dark—a lot of things were going on.  The thing that was an anchor for me was that, even as a young girl, I understood that girls help each other.  For everyone, there’s a family of people who support you and surround you.”

Bordas sought not only to offer such support to her family and friends, but to reach further and to effect even greater change, impacting entire communities with her generosity of spirit.  As a young adult, she joined the Peace Corps, serving for two years in Chile, where she helped organize production co-ops for knitting, sewing, and baking, encouraging women to earn an income and support themselves within the city. Stateside, she saw firsthand the hardships of women and families in Denver’s Spanish barrios, and worked in the city’s day care centers to improve conditions for Latino children.

In 1977, after working her way through college at the University of Florida and earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin, Bordas founded Denver’s Mi Casa Women’s Center, serving as executive director until 1986.  Recognized today as the national model for women’s empowerment organizations, Mi Casa and the opportunities Bordas promoted within the organization led to a significant and dynamic shift within Latina leadership—and, ultimately, to the founding and success of the National Hispana Leadership Institute.

Founded in 1987 and under the direct leadership of Bordas for nearly a decade, the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI) has played a critical role in Latina empowerment and advancement throughout the past 20 years. With a mission to expand Latina leadership opportunities and to provide strong, positive role models for young Latina girls, the NHLI has created strong partnerships with Harvard’s JFK School of Government and the Center for Creative Leadership to provide critical training and executive-level skills for Hispanic women.

“I got the idea that what we needed in our community was committed and competent leadership,” Bordas said. “In this way, Latinos could address the root causes of the many issues our community faces, as well as make greater contributions to America.”

In 1995, Bordas continued to advocate diversity leadership issues with the founding of Mestiza Leadership International, an organization that offers businesses the training, development, and strategic planning necessary to move toward a more diverse, inclusive, and culturally enriching workplace, and to seek organizational change. Under her leadership, Mestiza continues to guide organizations to more effective and inclusive leadership, resulting in more innovative and productive work environments.

In 2000, she founded the Circle of Latina Leadership, a program designed for young Latinas who have shown the potential for nonprofit and grassroots leadership, and aspire to make an even greater contribution. Comprised of weekend seminars and evening courses, the leadership program pursues its mission to “prepare the next generation of Latina leaders” by offering intense, mentor-driven training to further develop and promote Latina leadership skills.  To date, the program has trained more than 130 women for community leadership roles.

Bordas has also served communities throughout the world as an instructor, motivational speaker, and a member of integral leadership teams, boards, and advisory committees.  Living the Mestiza mission, she became the first Latina faculty member for the Center for Creative Leadership, where she taught in the Leadership Development Program (LDP). She recently served as an advisor to Harvard’s Hispanic Journal on Public Policy and the Kellogg National Fellows Program.  She also served as vice president of the board of the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, and as a trustee of the International Leadership Association. As testament to her notable legacy of leadership, the Colorado Legislature recently selected Bordas as one of 50 individuals who will design the state’s upcoming strategic plan.

A gifted writer, Bordas is the recipient of the prestigious Nautilus Gold Book Award in the area of Multicultural/Indigenous Literature for The Power of Latino Leadership. She is also the author of Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age, which won the 2008 International Latino Book Award for best Latino leadership book. In addition, she has also published “Passion and Power:  Finding Personal Purpose,” an essay in Reflections on Leadership, edited by Larry C. Spears; “Latino Leadership: Building a Diverse and Humane Society,” published by the Journal for Leadership Studies; and “African American Leaders: Guardians of Public Values,” which was included in the inaugural issue of the International Journal on Servant Leadership.  Ms. Bordas is a contributing author of “Leadership in the 21st Century,” published in Rethinking Leadership, by Thomas J. Sergiovanni.

In 2009, the Denver Post and the Colorado Women’s Foundation recognized her as the Colorado Unique Woman of the Year, due to the “ripple effect of her work.” Susan Walters of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado says of Bordas, “She not only has done a great job with her own work and mentoring, but in spreading it out through the community makes it bigger than herself.”

She also received the Wise Woman Award from the National Center for Women’s Policy Studies and was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.  In 2006, the Spellman College Center for Leadership honored her with the Leadership Legacy Award, and the Denver Business Journal selected Bordas for its 2003 Outstanding Women in Business Award. In 2008, she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Business Responsibility Award, and she continues to be lauded as not only one of the most effective Latina leaders of this generation, but as a role model for future leaders, trailblazers, and mentors.

Ms. Bordas continues to impact the Latino community, the global workplace, and the lives of women throughout the world as a change agent and advocate for social justice, speaking to groups large and small, and relaying the message that we all should be prepared to both lead and serve. As Bordas notes, “Get busy doing something for someone else. If you focus on helping others, you will find happiness. Happiness comes from serving and loving.”