In 2016, marketing and decision sciences professor Fernando Colina made the leap from higher education administration to teaching, fulfilling a dream that once seemed improbable. As an undergraduate, Colina dropped out of college and almost did not return. At that time, he was a young Latino student at a small liberal arts college with few peers and even fewer mentorship opportunities. It did not feel like college was for him. He ended up moving back to Boston where he eventually decided to try again at a nearby institution and this time, he succeeded.
What made the difference? “Having opportunities to connect and network with other Latino students,” says Colina.
The impact that such opportunities can have on student success is what inspired Colina to relaunch a student chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA) at Salem State University. ALPFA is a national organization that provides networking and professional leadership development opportunities for Latino professionals and students from across the United States. While originally formed as the National Hispanic Business Association, the organization welcomes professionals and students from all industries and disciplines into its network.
Colina and a small group of students relaunched the Salem State chapter in November 2022, with Colina serving as faculty advisor. Business major Lorimer MateoRondon ’23 serves as chapter president.
MateoRondon first learned about ALPFA in summer 2022 while participating in a weeklong management program at Harvard Business School. After the program ended, she noticed that some of her new friends were posting from a conference in Orlando. When she inquired, she learned that they were at a national ALPFA conference. She started to do research and discovered that there had been an ALPFA chapter at Salem State but it had been deactivated due to lack of activity. She was determined to get it restarted.
“Not a lot of people understand the importance of networking,” says MateoRondon. “Professional connections can help students find internships, grants, research opportunities and employment. ALPFA gets this.”
At the same time that MateoRondon was working to reactivate the ALPFA chapter at Salem State, art + design major Lani Rivera ’25 was looking into how to get a campus chapter started.
Rivera’s father leads the national organization, and they know first-hand the opportunities that ALPFA provides for both personal growth and professional development. In addition to chapter events that are organized and held locally, the national organization hosts an annual conference that invites members from all local chapters to come together to network, make industry connections, develop interview skills, polish resumes, and manage their careers.
“I have been going to ALPFA conferences since I was in high school and have seen the impact that it can have on building community and developing professional relationships,” says Rivera. “It is an amazing group of people that support each other and lift each other up.”
Demographic trends indicate that 25 percent of Salem State’s student population will identify as Hispanic, Latino, Latina, Latine, or Latinx by 2025. The hope is that ALPFA will be seen as a resource to not only cultivate on-campus relationships, but also build professional networks.
While rooted in networking, MateoRondon stresses that ALPFA is also about “building community and creating a sense of belonging.” She adds that “all students are welcome to join ALPFA, not just Latinos.”
“Our chapter is just getting off the ground. As we grow, we plan to host skill building workshops and networking events throughout the academic year,” says Rivera. Examples include bringing professionals to campus to talk to students about what they do, working on projects together, socializing, and collaborating to solve problems. They add, “And this year the ALPFA convention will be held August 20-24 in San Antonio, Texas. If there is enough interest, we hope to get sponsored so that our members can go for free.”
“ALPFA offers a world of possibility,” says Colina. “I’m excited to see where our students take it.”
Interested in joining? Contact chapter organizers through the ALPFA at SSU presence page.