Assistant Vice President for Diversity Initiatives Finalists

The Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity is happy to announce the 4 finalists for the Assistant Vice President for Diversity Initiatives position. You are invited to attend an open forum with each candidate, which will be held both in-person and via zoom. The schedules with the names of candidates appear below. CVs/resumes, Contributions to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity statements, as well as zoom links to the open forums are posted here on this website. You will also be able to provide feedback for each candidate using the online evaluation form, which will also be posted soon. Evaluation forms are due no later than Tuesday April 30th at 5:00 pm.

If you have additional questions, please contact Spri Aubrey at

Dr. Cynthia Wise

AVP Candidate Cynthia

April 17th

Dr. Cynthia Wise is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in New Mexico State University’s Department of Borderlands and Ethnic Studies.

Raised in the Mesilla Valley, before returning home to Southern New Mexico and NMSU, Dr. Wise was an Emmy Award-winning journalist, focusing much of her work on marginalized and under-resourced communities.

Her research and work highlight the need for systemic equity, culturally responsive and sustaining policies, and transformative leadership throughout the education system.  Her recent publications include “Toward a Rehumanizing Latinx Studies Curriculum” in  Crossing Digital Fronteras: Rehumanizing Latinx Education and Digital Humanities (co-authored with Nick Natividad/CUNY Press)  and “Critical Race Theory, Social Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: A Case Study in Inequity in New Mexico Education Policy” in  The Handbook on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Public Administration (co-authored with Christina Medina, CUNY Press, in print). Dr. Wise has been invited to speak on her work with Transfronterizo/a students at the 13 th Congreso Internacional de Literatura Chicana y Estudios Latinos this summer in Spain.

Dr. Wise is an Aggie through and through. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Government from New Mexico State University, a Master of Education in Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration from NMSU.

A dedicated advocate for Educational Equity and Change, she serves on New Mexico’s Black Education Advisory Council, Transform Education New Mexico, the State Ethnic Studies Council, and NMSU’s Diversity Council.

  • CV/Resume of Dr. Cynthia Wise
  • Statement of Contributions of Dr. Cynthia Wise to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
  • 1:15 – 2:15, Doña Ana Room 312, Corbett Center Student Union


Leigh Pinkston

AVP candidate Leigh April 23rd

Leigh Pinkston (she/her) is a diversity, equity, and inclusion leader with 8+ years of experience as a higher education administrator. Leigh has previously worked in admissions at Mount Holyoke College, inclusion and belonging at Harvard University, and currently works in career services at Smith College. She completed her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she researched dynamics of oppression in education. Leigh is skilled in facilitating intergroup dialogue, developing culturally responsive programming, and amplifying marginalized voices. She enjoys supporting students and fostering their ambitions, and through this work is reminded that everything is possible around young people.

  • CV/Resume of Leigh Pinkston
  • Statement of Contributions of Leigh Pinkston to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
  • 1:15-2:15, Otero Room 129 , Corbett Center Student Union



Mariana Ortega

AVP candidate Ortega

April 24th

Mariana Ortega, born in Guatemala and raised in Boaco, Nicaragua, is currently a Ph.D. student in the College of Education with a focus on Human Resources and Development at the University of Illinois. Her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are from The University of West Florida.

Mariana is the current Director for La Casa Cultural Latina at The University of Illinois. Under her current leadership at La Casa, her team expanded, created, and implemented several signature programs, such as the Black & Latinx Summit, the Richard Chavez Ambassador program, IlliNiños, We RISE, C-Cube, expanded on Undocumented/DACA collaborations and many more. Within her tenure as Director of La Casa, student engagement has tripled, and fundraising efforts have increased by 80%. She is currently launching a 50k capital campaign while guiding the process of a new facility for La Casa.

Previously, she worked at New Mexico State University, where she developed an inaugural Orientation, Transition, and Retention program that served the needs of the students while centering the families in developing a Spanish program. In the past 11 years, Mariana Ortega has devoted her Higher Education commitment and knowledge to recruitment, retention, transition, and serving underrepresented groups with an equity, inclusion, and diversity focus. In her free time, Mariana loves giving back to the local community in her involvement with: Girls Go For It, as their Vice President, and also serves as a Champaign County Ambassador and spending time with her Pitmix Harley Jenkins Ortega.

  • CV/Resume of Mariana Ortega
  • Statement of Contributions of Mariana Ortega to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
  • 1:15-2:15, Otero Room 129, Corbett Center Student Union



Dr. Sophia Sangwanthong

April 25th

Dr. Sophia Sangwanthong is an Arab American, disabled, trans woman.  She has helped to create both LGBT+ Programs and the Asian and Pacific Islander Program at NMSU, where she has been doing EID work for nearly a decade. Dr. Sangwanthong directed important EID achievements for NMSU such as the Preferred Name Rule and Inclusive Housing and is currently working with BEST to develop an Asian Studies minor. She has developed popular programming for NMSU such as Pride Season and OUTober, and has achieved grants and written and implemented trainings such as NMSU’s “SafeZone,” as well as “Intersectionality and Disability” for staff, faculty, and students. Dr. Sangwanthong has been teaching since 2009 and has done so in four disciplines. She has scholarly publications in Critical Theory and Gender Studies, and her latest research examines minoritized student experiences with religion, medical care, and family, as well as the culture and climate of NMSU. 

  • CV/Resume of Dr. Sophia Sangwanthong
  • Statement of Contributions of Dr. Sophia Sangwanthong to Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity
  • 1:15 – 2:15, Doña Ana Room 312, Corbett Center Student Union