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MSU Denver Student Embarks on a Leadership Exchange

Jackie Maldonado
Major: Marketing

For 26 years, the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, has journeyed to a different city each fall in order to exchange ideas on innovation, leadership, overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities. The invitation-only Leadership Exchange (LEX) program includes 160 top elected officials and senior-level executives in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. In October 2015, it also included MSU Denver senior Jackie Maldonado.

“I was the first MSU Denver student to participate in the LEX program in 26 years,” Maldonado said. “It was an honor to represent my school while I learned from some of the state’s top leaders.”

Jackie Maldonado with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
Jackie Maldonado with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper

Maldonado first discovered the opportunity through her participation in the Colorado Leadership Alliance, part of the Urban Leadership Program at MSU Denver. She applied for the program at the last minute, not thinking that her application would be accepted.

Several MSU Denver staff members helped Maldonado prepare for the interview. Gretta Mincer in the Urban Leadership Program, and Greg Geissler from the MSU Denver Foundation, provided pointers and guidance on what to expect.

“My takeaway from this is to show up and be ready for new opportunities,” she said. “There are so many opportunities for students at MSU Denver, but we have to make the first move to take advantage of them.”

Maldonado finished her marketing degree last year and added a statistics minor to round out her skills portfolio. Whether by fate or coincidence, one of the main themes of the Chicago LEX was Big Data.

“Our trip to UI Labs was one of the best experiences I had with how to use Big Data to improve our communities,” said Maldonado of UI Labs, which brings together educational partners, community organizations, businesses and civic leaders to work together solving problems. “In all my activities at MSU Denver, I’ve strived to make what ever it is that we’re doing better. They are doing that at UI Labs.”

In another spark of coincidence, Maldonado recently bought a house in Commerce City. “The first night I found myself sitting next to the mayor of Commerce City,” she said. “We were able to strike up a conversation because of that connection.”

Rubbing elbows with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, VPs and CEOs might intimidate the average student. Was she nervous? “I met the CEO of the Children’s Hospital at 6:30 a.m. waiting for our flight,” she said. “She was so nice that I forgot to be nervous.”

The trip that was “meant to be” helped Maldonado connect her academic studies to industry, in living color. Being the first Roadrunner in the history of the program inspired her to spread the word so that she’s not the last.

“Everyone I met was humble and helpful,” she said. “They told me that they were proud of me for being there. I was proud of myself for being there. It was only by taking a chance and stepping out of my comfort zone that it was possible.”

Read more about Jackie Maldonado's experience at LEX Chicago here.