Propelling future Latino professionals: A conversation with the President and Founder of Prospanica Drexel
Brandon Cisneros, a college senior, has taken steps to prepare his generation to be leading voices in America’s top industries.
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Brandon Cisneros is originally from central New Jersey and was born to parents who immigrated from Ecuador and Chile.
He had been involved with organizations centered around the Latinx community throughout his youth and that continued when he chose to attend Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The amount of possibilities the city and college offer influenced his decision to leave his home state.
“I really love the city because I feel like there is so much opportunity here and things to get involved with… Drexel’s Co-op program really motivated me to come here as well because I’m getting the work experience to go out into the real world after graduation,” he said.
The Cooperative education program (Co-op) is one of the main selling points of Drexel. Depending on if students choose the four or five-year path, they will graduate with six to 18 months of proper experience because it is built into their curriculum.
This also allows students to build a strong network in their undergraduate career and was also important to Cisneros, who chose to major in marketing and minor in Spanish.
Nearly four years ago, he joined the Philadelphia chapter of Prospanica as their marketing officer.
Prospanica stands for the Association of Hispanic MBAs & Business Professionals, and since 1988, it has sought to connect thousands of Hispanics to graduate programs, subject matter experts, and corporations.
Entering his third year of the five-year program in 2019, Cisneros knew he wanted to expand on his goal of furthering diversity, equity and inclusion on his college campus. With his previous experience with Prospanica, he decided to start his own chapter at Drexel.
It would go on to be the only Prospanica university chapter not only in Pennsylvania, but in the regional Northeast.
Like the national organization, the Drexel chapter initially centered around business students, but later grew to help Latinos in different professions.
This transition made sense given the fact that the university chapter founder was taking classes in Drexel’s LeBow College of Business.
Prospanica Drexel holds monthly general body meetings to share updates and resources. Throughout the academic terms they also hold personal development events to help students build their brand and work on their LinkedIn profiles.
The young organization is focused on making sure that Latinos have the network and tools they need to realize their potential in whatever career path they choose to immerse themselves into.
Cisneros continued to have a greater vision for the organization, and expanded membership to students from different schools at Drexel. He also wanted to draw in students from other large institutions in the area like the University of Pennsylvania and Temple.
The lack of representation of Latinos on corporate boards is a main reason as to why organizations like Prospanica Drexel need to exist.
Despite making up nearly a fifth of the population and contributing over $2 trillion to the nation’s gross domestic product, Latinos represent less than 3% of Fortune 1000 corporate board seats.
Prospanica Drexel’s president and founder listed a number of ways this reality can change moving forward.
The first starts with embracing the ever-digitizing world on social media.
“Everybody's on Instagram. Gen Zers are on Tik Tok and all the other social media platforms so that's really what companies are looking at now, and I think that's why it’s really important for Latinos to learn these digital skills,” said Cisneros.
He also put an emphasis on the need for more funding sources to support Latino students in higher education.
“It also comes down to financial issues as well, I feel like there needs to be more scholarships out there for our Latino students,” said Cisneros.
The organization’s advisor is Raquel Arredondo, the Associate Director for Outreach, Engagement & Professional Development for Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.
She is a first generation Cuban-American who previously worked in consulting, human resources and higher education.
Arredondo has been recognized by the Association of Latino Professionals-Prospanica with the 2018 Brillante Award, and in 2017, AL DIA News Media recognized her as a Woman at the Top.
“She’s been a real amazing mentor for me personally but then she’s also been an amazing resource for the organization… She’s also a strong leader in the Philadelphia area for diversity, equity and inclusion, just a powerhouse Latina,” Cisneros said.
During the pandemic, it was difficult for many student organizations to conduct the same level of outreach they did in normal times.
Cisneros believed the transition to the virtual environment made his peers lose the motivation to engage with one another.
Many students even lost their co-op openings because of the COVID-19 crisis. The situation prompted the Prospanica Drexel president to act on both fronts.
He wanted to ensure that students were still creating a network for themselves during these times, and he wanted to assist those who lost their co-ops.
Prospanica Drexel used Hopin, an online event platform, to organize a virtual career fair and with the contacts he had at companies like Comcast and PNC Bank, he was able to connect students with different opportunities.
They also partnered with the Hispanic Star, a platform to provide relief to those in need, opportunities for career development, and support for their families. Cisneros is also a hub leader for Hispanic Star in Philadelphia.
The two joined forces to start a student relief fund for those who lost their jobs and could not pay their tuition or bills. The fund also helped international students who returned to their home country, but could not afford to travel back to campus.
Initiating the relief fund was part of Drexel’s Day of Giving, an annual event that brings alumni, students, parents and faculty together to raise money for a host of university programs from research initiatives to community outreach efforts.
“That campaign was really an amazing effort to see the community come together and help Drexel Latino students,” Cisneros said.
In the few years that Prospanica Drexel has existed, it has provided aspiring Latino professionals with valuable resources and acted quickly to support those going through nerve-wracking circumstances as a result of the pandemic.
Cisneros is unsure about what exactly is waiting for him immediately after college, but he has a clear end goal in mind.
“I do have a future goal of starting my own marketing agency that’ll be focused on digital marketing and social media strategy for Latinx companies and creatives,” he said.
Time will only tell what is in store for him, but the sky's the limit for this young Latino leader.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project among more than 20 news organizations focused on economic mobility in Philadelphia. Read all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.