January 12, 2001
Arlington, VA A natural-born leader, Marisa Rivera-Albert was in elementary school when she began honing her leadership skills.
"I was always leading something whether it was the student council, track and field competitions, or ballet and flamenco classes," she recalls. "I have always been eager to help others and get involved in creating positive change."
Today Rivera-Albert is helping other Latinas to become leaders.
As president of the Arlington, VA-based National His-pana Leadership Institute, Rivera-Albert's focus is on preparing Latinas for senior-level, decision-making positions. NHLI provides them with training in professional development, community activism and relationship building. It's a position she has held close to her heart for nearly three years.
Thanks to the help of corporate partners like AT&T, NHLI has been able to make a difference in the lives of 280 women.
When asked to share some NHLI success stories, Rivera-Albert names three women: Esmeralda Santiago, who became a published author after graduating from NHLI; Becky Barrera, who went on to become president of the Latino Children's Institute, a national nonprofit organization in Texas; and Anita Betancourt, who holds the distinction of being the only woman currently serving the Florida legislature.
Betancourt speaks highly of Rivera-Albert, noting her leadership skills in fundraising and consensus building.
"She certainly has turned around NHLI," Betancourt says. "She has energized the board and has shown great enthusiasm and spirit for bringing people together."
Rivera-Albert, 40, describes her leadership style as one of consensus building, rather than dictating.
"I always like to make the distinction that we as women should be assertive, not aggressive," Rivera-Albert says. "You need to be assertive, focused, take calculated risks and be smart when you make your decision or voice your opinion."
Rivera-Albert cherishes the role she plays in helping women find their strengths and make themselves heard. An expert in her field, she understands the barriers women face and is equipped with the know-how and experience to help up-and-coming leaders handle workplace challenges such as discrimination, sexual harassment, pay inequity, and the lack of female role models.
One of the biggest challenges women face today, she says, is attempting to balance their family life while still maintaining a leadership position at work.
"It's not necessary to spend 55 hours on the job to be a more effective employee," Rivera-Albert says. "You can put in 40 hours and do excellent work."
Prior to joining NHLI, Rivera-Albert held leadership positions at Black Hawk College and Western Illinois University, both in Moline, Ill. These positions allowed her to do one of the things she enjoys most--provide leadership for minority students in areas of recruitment, retention and graduation.
"We went to our backyards, our fiestas and churches to do our recruiting," Rivera-Albert says. "That was important because it brought awareness and opportunity to those who have never experienced college."
As a former community liaison officer, educational adviser and press secretary for the U.S. Embassy in Panama, Rivera-Albert has traveled extensively and brings a unique global perspective to her profession.
"Living in Panama gave me an understanding that we truly live in a global society," says Rivera-Albert, a Puerto Rico native, who lives in Arlington, VA with husband, Juan, and their three children. "When you are overseas, you learn that by immersing ourselves in other languages and cultures, we can enrich our own experiences."
Rivera-Albert earned a bachelor's degree in communications from the American University in Washington, D.C. In 1995, she received a master's of science education from Western Illinois University. She is also a graduate of various leadership programs, such as the Center of Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. and the Harvard University Executive Program.
Among the many recognitions she has been awarded are: the 2000 Global Impact Award by the Hispanic Women's Corporation, the 1996 Administrative Excellence in Promoting Multiculturalism Award by Western Illinois University and the Superior Honor Award by the U.S. Department of State in 1988.
Her work has garnered her seats on prestigious advisory committees including the Civil Institute for Women of Color Advisory Council, the United Nations Development Fund for Women and Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors in Northern Virginia.
She appreciates the recognition afforded her, but maintains that her greatest satisfaction is "to see these women walk out of here with the hope, energy and belief that they can change the world."