Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
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About Us

As a previously and historically predominantly white institution (PWI), The University of Texas at Austin recognizes that Latina/x Indigenous students are the fastest-growing population to attend college. We believe that for Latina/x Indigenous students to not only enroll but thrive on a college campus, we must provide services and resources that are culturally relevant to their identity. This includes educational workshops, pláticas, and events that focus on famialismo, comadre culture, empowerment, culture of cariño (care), nepantla, conocimientos y consejos (knowledge and wisdom).

Our Team

Photo of ULN Intern Bella Vargas

Bella Anita Vargas 

ULN Intern  

Hello everyone, my name is Bella Vargas, I am the Associate Director of LILI and also the ULN intern for the program. I am a fourth – year student from Brownsville, Texas majoring in Communication and Leadership at the Moody College of Communication with a minor in Social Work and Communication and Social Change. Coming to UT as a freshman, I was terrified of living in a “big city”, away from all my friends and family. But moving to Austin was the right choice for my education. Knowledge and experience of the diversity of the university is key to any career that allows us to network and ensure a successful job. Knowledge of textbooks is not enough; students learn from life experiences outside their home. Sometimes we do miss home, and LILI is the perfect organization to be surrounded by empowering women and connect with Latinx and Indigenous peers throughout the UT community. As a student, you will learn to appreciate the diversity of our university while having a great support system of students from the Latina/x and Indigenous Leadership Institute.  

Photo of Co-President Victoria Bardon

Victoria Bardon 


I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and moved to Texas 9 years ago. Currently, I am an Unspecified Business major wishing to declare in Finance at the McCombs School of Business. Being Hispanic is a part of me of which I truly treasure, hence my designation as an HSF Scholar and LILI’s Co-President. Professionally, I hope to work in the consulting industry and later pursue an education in law. I love drawing and painting with gouache when I have the chance; spending time with my brother, Lorenzo; and reading mystery novels alongside my cat, Lady. 

Photo of Co-President Lauren Gomez

Lauren Gomez 


Hi Everyone! My name is Lauren Gomez, and I am one of the Co-President of LILI. I’m a second-year student from San Antonio, Texas, majoring within the College of Natural Sciences. Given the pandemic, I stayed home for my freshman year of college and struggled to build connections while navigating a new virtual environment. Joining LILI enabled me the opportunity to meet other students and build a community of Latinx individuals from around the country, despite being virtual.  Through LILI we hope to enable you a space where you can be yourself, speak, and connect among others that can relate to you. We are here to offer support and empower you through your college journey. Remember that YOU belong here! Hook em’!  

Photo of Vice President Emily Smith

Emily Smith 

Vice President 

Hello everyone! My name is Emily Smith and I am Vice President! I am a sophomore majoring in Accounting  with the goal of attending law school one day. Considering COVID-19 has made a major impact on how LILI could operate last year, it will be exciting to finally get to meet you all in person! Having grown up in an area with a small Latino population, LILI has given me the opportunity to form amazing friendships with other Latinas. I understand that starting college can be frightening, but just remember that LILI is here to help you feel accepted and welcomed. As your Vice President, my goal is to assist you all in taking advantage of everything LILI has to offer. As you adjust to college life and being away from home, you can always rely on your LILI familia to be there for you. I’m really looking forward to seeing all of you this year and to the incredible experiences we will share together! 

Photo of Marketing Chair Frida Lopez-Stern

Frida Lopez-Stern (she/her/ella)  

Marketing Chair 

Hello LILI Familia! My name is Frida, and I’m a sophomore studying Radio-Television-Film and Public Relations. I joined the Latinx and Indigenous Leadership Institute as a Marketing Chair my first year at UT. I was instantly drawn to LILI because of its mission to amplify Latinx and Indigenous voices. I couldn’t wait to experience all the organization had to offer and join a community I knew would understand my unique experience. My favorite part of being a LILI Ambassador is spreading the messages I so strongly believe in and advocating for all the incredible people that are so often overlooked in society.  

Photo of Membership Co-Chair Kandice Cantu

Kandice Cantu 

Membership Co-Chair 

I’m Kandice Cantu, one of the membership chairs at LILI! One of the reasons why I love being a part of LILI is because they always provide a safe place for anyone— it’s like one big family! 

Photo of Gaby Montenegro, Membership Co-Chair

Gaby Montenegro 

Membership Co-Chair 

Hi y’all! My name is Gaby Montenegro and I am one of your Membership Chairs! I am going to be a sophomore majoring in Nursing and completing two different certificates; one is Spanish for Medical Professionals and the other is based in a program at UT called the Bridging Disciplines Program and I am specifically doing the Patients, Practitioners, and Cultures of Care certificate. I joined LILI last year and it was the best decisions I ever made in terms of choosing which organizations to participate in. I love the sense of community I get being a part of LILI, especially since where I went to high school did not have a large Latino population, which led me to feel distant from my culture. My dad is Venezuelan and while I have grown up with the culture, I have never felt fully Hispanic because I don’t speak Spanish fluently. LILI has made me more comfortable embracing my Latino side without feeling like a fraud. I absolutely love getting to meet so many amazing girls! So glad I chose to join LILI. 

Photo of Finance Chair Maria Buendia

Maria Buendia 

Finance Chair  

Hi everyone! My name is Maria Buendia and I am your finance chair for LILI this year! A little bit about me is that I am an International Business major, I was an orientation advisor this summer, and this is my second year in LILI. What I love most about LILI are the people I have met whether they be mentors or some of my closest friends. This community has played such a big role in my college experience, and I can’t wait to see it grow. I’m so excited to meet you all!