Vanessa Bustamante has dedicated her career to supporting student involvement since she was introduced to an array of campus organizations that helped her thrive as a student at Cal State Northridge more than a decade ago. Now the Interim Program Manager for Student Success and Support Programs at MiraCosta College, Bustamante’s efforts have been recognized with the prestigious Madrina Award from the Latina Leadership Network of the California Community Colleges for her tireless work in promoting the culture, activism, and advocacy of the Latinx/Chicanx community, while facilitating the pursuit of a higher education.
Bustamante, who helped a group of Latinx/Chicanx students revive an inactive chapter of the Latina Leadership Network at MiraCosta College just 18 months ago, was nominated by the students she has inspired.
“In higher education, I believe the highest award someone can receive is one from the students that we have the privilege of serving and I am sincerely humbled to receive this award from them,” Bustamante said. “I am thankful to the Latinx/Chicanx/Raza students who have allowed me to be part of their familia as a madrina,” Bustamante said. “In the Raza community, madrinas are mentors who help those in our familias through life; I take that responsibility very seriously and affirm that I will continue to advocate and support our students in the spaces I am in and the programs and services that I am able to impact. In solidarity and struggle, siempre… porque la lucha sigue (always, because the fight continues)!”
The Latina Leadership Network empowers Latinx/Chicanx students through their educational and professional journeys, inspires them to seek leadership roles in their campus communities, and advocates for current and future generations of mujeres in higher education. The organization established the Madrina Award in 1992 to recognize the efforts of Latinas who have contributed their time and energy toward promoting the interest of Latinas in the California Community Colleges, and she is the fifth MiraCosta College leader to earn the award. Recipients are involved in professional organizations, support curriculum development, foster leadership training, build bridges with the community, and mentor and empower Latinas.
Bustamante learned the power of being involved when she was a residential adviser at Cal State Northridge and was required to know everything about every organization and resource at the campus, a knowledge that grew while earning her bachelor’s degree in Chicano/a studies and communication studies and later her master’s in degree in higher education administration. She would go on to earn her doctor of education in higher education from the University of Southern California. She came to MiraCosta College in fall 2018 as a student services specialist.
Over the years, Bustamante has published research on student involvement and organizations created by students of color and has also received various recognitions for having served as an advisor to student organizations, perhaps most notably the AFLV-West (Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values) Outstanding Fraternity/Sorority Professional Award in 2018.
She is a founding sister of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., Delta Omega chapter, a member of MEChA, and other organizations, and she serves on the board of directors for community organizations such as MANA de North County San Diego.