I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.— Abraham Lincoln
Maria has years of experience as a community leader and change maker, a strategic planner and implementer of JEDI initiatives, and an academic and trainer of trainers to advance equity work in education and the environment.
Her focus has been in designing tools and processes to center equity and inclusion and achieve more equitable outcomes in the work. Maria is a highly skilled and trusted facilitator recognized for facilitating difficult dialogues across multiple differences and the complex power dynamics that emerge when our social identities enter into dynamic interaction.
Maria’s most recent post was as the deputy director of Global Diversity Equity and Inclusion at The Nature Conservancy. She led the group that built Equity by Design—an interactive tool for conservation practitioners to plan and implement equitable strategies. Previously, she was a faculty member at the University of Utah in the Education, Culture, and Society Department (ECS), one of the top social foundation programs in the country. She taught and mentored hundreds of pre-service and in-service teachers working within highly diverse school districts in Utah. Maria grounded her teaching in her profound respect for diverse communities and the pursuit of social justice in education using cutting-edge frameworks that address class, race, ethnicity, and gender and immigration status in educational policy and practice. She holds a Ph.D. in education from ECS with an emphasis on political theater. In this work she trained under Augusto Boal, the Brazilian theater practitioner, drama theorist and political activist who founded Theater of the Oppressed.
In 2020, Maria was one of 250 women celebrated in a 5,000-foot public mural in downtown Salt Lake City. These women were featured for the positive impact they have made in their communities. She is currently the chair of the board of Tracy Aviary and Botanical Garden, the oldest bird park in the nation. As the first woman of color in this role in the park’s history, she is working to attract more diversity to the aviary while growing inclusive programs so all people in Utah can see this beautiful space as theirs. She is a lifetime member of the Utah Women’s Giving Circle, a group of women who leverage modest, individual donations into a powerful investment in projects that empower Utah women and girls. Maria is also a special advisor to the board of Men Healing, an organization dedicated to providing resources to men who have experienced sexual violence.