UST Alumnus Candelario Cervantez ’05, MBA ’08, Receives the 2022 Prospanica Brillante Award
Candelario Cervantez '05, MBA '08 Receives 2002 Prospanica Brillante Award
External Affairs and Diversity Executive for Teach For America and UST alumnus Candelario Cervantez (he, him, él) '05, MBA '08, received the 2022 Prospanica Brillante Award for Member Excellence on Nov. 3 in New Orleans.
The Brillante Award for Member Excellence recognizes a Prospanica member who exemplifies Hispanic leadership through their drive and success. According to Prospanica, "the recipient also steps forward as an advocate for education and community collaborations that foster advancement in initiatives to empower Hispanics and assist them in furthering their educational and professional pursuits.”
Cervantez, the national senior managing director of the Latinx Alliances, said, "It is such an honor to be a recipient of the Brillante Award and to be among such an amazing group of Latinx leaders and trailblazers. Let us continue to support one another and make things easier for the next generation. Unidos, we are powerful!" - ¡Adelante!
Cervantez is a champion for educational equity and excellence. He opens educational opportunities to historically underrepresented and underserved communities. In addition, he promotes the advancement of diverse leaders in all industries.
He found his career assisting Latinx college-bound students who often find themselves walking through a college experience with no guidebook. "Like them, I did not know the support system or organizations who could have helped me," he said. What he did find at UST, which he considers a blessing, was the guidance of professors, and that guidance now serves him in his career, life, and community.
“I learned service to others from UST and my family,” he said. “My abuelitos (grandparents) and parents instilled the importance of Education and supporting others in the community. UST reinforced the importance of service to the community.”
Celt Couple and a UST Legacy Family
Cervantez, his wife, Dr. Andrea Pihlaskari, and other family members are a UST legacy family.
"My wife, Dr. Andrea Pihlaskari, attended UST and earned her B.A. in Psychology, and her two aunts, Sandra Medina George, and Lucy Medina Santos, also attended. Two of our younger cousins, Andres Santos and Victoria Santos, attended, as did my mother-in-law Miriam Medina, who received her Master's in Education. My father, Margarito C. Cervantez, received theology classes from UST faculty while becoming a deacon for the Diocese of Victoria, El Campo."
The Goodness of Mentors
Cervantez's father recommended the University to him. After a tour, the younger Cervantez fell in love with the place and the people. His initial plans were to become a doctor.
"I was ill-prepared for the rigors of college, socially awkward, and had 'imposter syndrome,'" he said. Former Biology Associate Professor Dr. Joanne Romagni encouraged him to follow his passion of studio art and to secure a business degree. Her advice led him to obtain a position at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in Development.
"I am so happy that I listened to her," he said. "Another professor, Dr. Michele Simms, helped me navigate my MBA degree in the business school and supported me in my application to graduate school."
After completing his UST degrees, he learned about the Latinx organization, Prospanica and wasted no time joining and becoming involved. He quickly rose in the ranks and became a chapter officer and president for the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter in 2014. Later, he became an active member in Houston and nationally.
"I am so happy that UST and Prospanica are working together now to expand access and opportunity for more students and alumni," he said.
Prospanica is a national organization that has advocated for Hispanic business professionals for more than 30 years. Since its founding as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs in 1988, it has hosted an annual career and professional development conference and connected thousands of Hispanics to graduate programs, subject matter experts, corporations, and each other. Prospanica has given more than $8 million in scholarships for graduate education. In 2016, as Hispanics continued to occupy a growing portion of the nation's demographics, it rebranded as Prospanica to broaden its mission to serve all Hispanics.