senior executive vice president / principal
Si se puede!
Maria Elena is passionate about designing approaches and facilitating processes that allow community members from diverse cultural backgrounds and experiences to co-create a shared vision, and strategies and messages to bring that vision to life. Her work often focuses on the intersections of social justice, racial equity, environmental sustainability, public health and education, since it is impossible to address inequities without looking holistically at community assets and needs.
As the leader of Metropolitan Group’s Multicultural Engagement practice, Maria Elena designs collaborative, values-based approaches to bring together communities and people most impacted by an issue to have an active voice in both defining the problem and shaping solutions.
She brings more than 30 years of professional experience in strategic communication, branding and culture change, in the United States and internationally. She is experienced in implementing campaigns, initiatives, and programs to increase participation and engagement, change attitudes and behaviors and advance policy. She greatly enjoys working with organizations on capacity building for long-term sustainability and her cross-cultural communication experience spans four continents.
Prior to MG, Maria Elena was Associate Publisher for a national Latina women’s magazine, and served as executive director for a Latino, community-based organization overseeing programs ranging from alternative education, school retention and youth leadership to prevention education and mental health. She also worked internationally in the areas of international marketing, executive education, and economic development.
Maria Elena is originally from Uruguay. She holds a master’s in business administration with an emphasis in international marketing from Portland State University and a bachelor’s in languages from Georgetown University. She is bilingual in English and Spanish and fluent in French and has a working knowledge of Russian. She moved back to Portland after opening and leading MG’s Washington, D.C. office for ten years. Her proudest role is being a mom to her son, Andres Juan (AJ).
- Principal author of two chapters in Advancing Educational Success and Public Health, published by American Public Health Association Press: “Application of a Multicultural Lens to Policy Work in Native American Communities” and ”Using Strategic Communication to Advance Behavioral, Attitudinal, and Systems Change,” 2011
- Principal author, “Increasing Relevance, Relationships and Results,” a white paper on principles and practices for effective multicultural communication
- Principal author, Authentic Youth Engagement to Advance Policy series and Applying a Multicultural Lens to Policy Work series on behalf of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
- Co-author, “The Power of Effective Communication” for Exchange, a journal of the Land Trust Alliance
- Co-author, “Latino Family Engagement in After School Programs,” a publication and policy brief of the National Council of La Raza (now UNIDOS US)
Take a look at Maria Elena’s articles, appearances, and examples of work below.