Maria Espino

Maria Espino gives back helping students access post-secondary education

Maria Espino has been on the road to college since her freshman year of high school.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Maria was a member of PEOPLE­: the Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence. This program involved summer courses on a college campus and exposed her to the educational opportunities that were available to her after high school.

“If it wasn’t for that pre-college program I wouldn’t have known anything about college,” Maria said.

After high school, Maria decided to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She initially planned to study engineering but quickly realized that she wanted to pursue a different path. She switched to a double major in community and nonprofit leadership and gender and women studies.

“I wanted to have the opportunity to give back to the community that I came from,” Maria said. “I was really passionate about identities and being exposed to identities that I hadn’t been exposed to in Milwaukee life.”

Maria went on from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to get her masters in educational policy and leadership at Marquette University and is now working toward her Ph.D. in higher education administration. Maria hopes that through her work she can make a difference in the lives of students in the same way that others did for her.

“It’s crucial to be able to advance diversity and inclusion work,” Maria said. “These programs gave me the tools to be where I am today, and I am completely indebted to them.”

One way that Maria is giving back is by working as a McNair Graduate Student Mentor. This federal program helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for graduate school.

“We’re there to help them be the best candidate on paper as possible and to center them as people,” Maria said. “I care about the access points of individuals and getting in to college.”

Maria plans to work as a professor after graduating and hopes that she can continue to use her work as a researcher and educator to improve the lives of future generations.

“It’s a good position to have power to enact change,” Maria said of being a professor. “I hope I can make some type of difference.”