I was introduced to Estela Lopez by Dr. Melissa Morriss-Olson, provost of Bay Path University. Melissa assured me that Estela was someone I just had to meet. Within minutes of my first conversation with Estela, I knew she was someone who could have an impact on Bay Path because of her vision and personal mission of empowering people through education. At Bay Path, Estela, as a member of the Board of Trustees, is the Chair of the Academic Committee, and serves on the Committee on Trustees, Executive Committee, and Human Resources and Compensation Committee. Throughout her career in higher education, she has held positions of leadership at Northeastern Illinois University, American University in Puerto Rico, and the University of Connecticut. A passionate advocate for the Latino community, her efforts both in and out of the classroom have not been unrecognized, and she has been the recipient of both the Hispanic Caucus of the AAHHE Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award, and the Illinois Latino Council in Higher Education Distinguished Service Award. In 2005, she was the recipient of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund Award, and in 2006, she was selected Latina Citizen of the Year for the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. In 2008, she received the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association Achievement Award. Yet, it is as the representative from the Board of Trustees on the University Diversity and Inclusion Council that Estela’s influence has truly left a mark on our campus culture. She is a role model for our diverse students—a kind, compassionate, and confident leader. Without a doubt, Estela is true trailblazer.
Could you share a bit about your life journey and career?
I knew very early on the importance of education. After leaving Cuba, I came to the United States with nothing. It taught me a profound lesson: what one has learned, no one can take away. For me, high school was oppressive; I was an outsider and never fitted in. But, I committed myself to getting an education without much thought about a career, except for teaching. College became a liberating experience, and from there I went to graduate school at Columbia University, where I earned my master’s and doctorate in Spanish literature.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I have accomplished many things in my career, including implementing strategic plans, changing workplace cultures, securing grants, and fostering new ideas that shape institutions, but I am most proud of making a difference in people’s lives. Every time someone tells me that working with me or studying in my class has changed them, I know I have done well. To me, my work is connected to ensuring others have opportunities to reach their goals. If I have facilitated that objective, I am satisfied.
What is one regret that you have in your career?
I really do not have any regrets because from every mistake I have made, and there are many, I have learned from that experience. Looking back, I would probably have done things differently, but perhaps I would not have learned or be where I am now. Life should not be about regrets, but about learning.
What advice would you give to students at Bay Path who are setting out on their own life journey?
Start by knowing yourself and your values because in your life’s journey you want to grow, but not lose yourself or those values. As you reach different stages in your life, you want to always recognize who you are and affirm that your core values are still part of you. Improve yourself by learning and engaging in professional development, while also acknowledging your true self. Life is hard, but it is an exciting journey that takes you to places unimaginable, and when you arrive, you will not be alone, because your true self will be there.