Meet Estefani Peña Figueroa: CU Denver’s New Program Director for Latinx Student Services
Estefani Peña Figueroa, Program Director of Latinx Student Services

Meet Estefani Peña Figueroa: CU Denver’s New Program Director for Latinx Student Services

July 2, 2024

Estéfani Peña Figueroa was born in Guatemala and came to the United States when she was seven. Like all parents, her family wanted the best opportunities for her, even if that meant she would be an undocumented student. After crossing the Mexican border, her family headed for Colorado, which she has called home ever since. 

Colorado has been good to her, and the Auraria campus provided her a path to success, which is why this summer, she accepted the program director position for CU Denver’s Latinx Student Services. The Auraria campus was an essential part of her community long before she took on this new role. After graduating high school, she enrolled at the Community College of Denver and the Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is a DACA recipient, which allowed Peña Figueroa to earn a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management from MSU Denver. She worked a few on-campus jobs supporting DACA, undocumented, and immigrant students before she joined CU Denver as our first coordinator for Undocumented Student Services in 2022.  

“I live at the intersection of many identities,” she said. “I’m a proud Latina and first-generation graduate. I know the challenges of being undocumented, and I know it takes determination and support to succeed. That’s why I loved my position as the coordinator helping undocumented students.” But she sees even more opportunities to help students. “In this new position, I will help many more,” she said. “My goal is to support our students by celebrating our differences, sharing resources, and using our commonality to improve the higher education experience for many.” 

For Peña Figueroa, that starts with collaborating with several other groups at CU Denver, including the Hispanic-Serving Institution group, the Latinx Affinity Group, and student organizations. She also plans to connect with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion operational teams supporting students across campus, including the Black-Serving, Hispanic-Serving, and Indigenous-Serving teams. “I want to break down silos and be connected,” she said. “That’s super important to me because it creates collaboration. Our whole purpose is to serve students. We can do that best by working together.” 

She is already working with teams to plan several events for Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins Sept. 15, including the second annual Noche Latina dance celebration on Sept. 26 and a Resources Day on Oct. 15. She’s also collaborating with other groups to develop Hispanic-Serving Institution activities in the fall. And Peña Figueroa plans to lend her support to the next Undocumented Student Resources Coordinator once that person is hired. She wants to be sure some of the resources and traditions started for students in 2022 continue, including TheDream.US scholarship and the Tri-Institutional Dreamer’s Graduation. 

Connecting groups on campus is just the starting point. To truly impact students, she said CU Denver needs to enhance relationships with community groups that represent the diversity among the Latino community, which—in Denver—includes people who can trace their families to Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and several countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. 

“I know without mi gente (my people), I never would have made it, so I want to be sure we network beyond on campus and really connect with the Denver community,” she said. “Our work doesn’t end when students graduate. We need to be able to mentor them so they can get that first great job, and the next, and the next, and that’s all about connecting with our community.”