Las Vegas, N.M. – Diana Venegas, the new student body president at New Mexico Highlands University, solidified her career path to develop social work policy during a new Legislative Fellowship program the university sponsored.
“My professional goal is to attend law school and then work as an attorney on children and family policy issues,” Venegas said. “During the legislative fellowship at the New Mexico State Legislature this year, I had the opportunity to shadow Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, who is a social worker, and see how he uses his expertise to impact state laws and social services.”
Venegas said the Legislative Fellowship inspired her to see how a social worker could make an impact at a state level. “Policy work is appealing to me because it can positively impact thousands of people rather than just one person at a time,” Venegas said.
“The Legislative Fellowship, established in fall semester 2018, was also a valuable experience where I gained knowledge about leadership, state government, tracking legislati0n and more,” Venegas said.
“Highlands President Sam Minner established the Legislative Leadership program to increase the future leaders across the state, and to expose Highlands students to public service,” said Kimberly Blea, dean of students at Highlands. “Diana is committed to serving in a professional role that provides opportunities to develop and shape policy at the macro level, which is a way to impact many people.”
Blea said that during her time at Highlands, Venegas has demonstrated strong leadership across campus in a variety of roles.
“I look forward to working more directly and collaboratively with Diana in her new role as student body president,” Blea said.
Venegas, who completed her bachelor’s degree in social work at Highlands, is on track to complete her master’s degree in social work in May 2020.
“My social work professors at Highlands were instrumental to my success,” Venegas said. “Overall, the professors have been very supportive in helping me grow professionally, and also helping me navigate toward my interest in policy.”
Venegas, who has served as a student senator at Highlands for two years, was elected student body president in the spring semester of 2019.
“I hope to be a strong advocate for students on issues on the main campus and also strengthen communication with the other Highlands University locations around the state,” Venegas said.
Venegas has also taken on other leadership roles at Highlands. She is the president of the Gamma Alpha Omega Sorority.
“One of my most memorable experiences at Highlands is being involved with Gamma Alpha Omega, a multicultural sorority with a focus on Latinas in higher education. My older sisters in the sorority helped me learn about leadership and stepping outside my comfort zone,” Venegas said.
She said she also values the four years she spent has a peer mentor at Highlands.
“It was really rewarding assisting students with academics and personal dilemmas,” Venegas said.
Outside the classroom, Venegas is completing an internship at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas.
“I work directly with the patients, helping with admissions and facilitating educational groups,” Venegas said.
Venegas said that at Highlands she never feels like a number, and instead the university has a family environment.
“I’ve had the opportunity to grow and get close to mentors like professors and the dean of students. They listen to my concerns and give me helpful opinions about my future goals,” Venegas said.
Venegas said the Legislative Fellowship motivated her to apply for a competitive New Mexico legislative internship. She will learn later in July if she is accepted for this position.
Blea said during fall semester 2019, a call for applications for the 2019-2020 Legislative Fellows program at Highlands will go out.