A Latina Leader: Lisa Firmin

Firmin at lectureRetired Colonel Lisa Firmin came to campus on October 12, 2016 to talk with students and deliver a lecture entitled Leadership: A Latina Warrior’s Journey. The Women’s and Gender Resource Center hosted her visit, which was cosponsored by the Popel Shaw Center for Race and Ethnicity and Student Life and Campus Engagement.

As the Associate Provost for Diversity and Recruitment at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Lisa Firmin has made many remarkable changes on her campus. She developed the President’s Distinguished Diversity Awards in 2011, which is a ceremony that celebrates the achievements of faculty, staff and students within the university. Firmin developed the program and ceremony to bring everyone from the university together who would normally not have been in attendance at such events. Firmin works hard to create a space for people of all backgrounds and talents within her University.

Yasmin and Firmin
Lisa Firmin with WGRC student worker Yasmin Cooper

Firmin’s upbringing and the values of her parents have had a huge impact on her as she grew into adulthood. Her parents did not have much formal education, but they understood the value of receiving an education. Firmin noted that her parents “never told me how to do it, just that I had to do it.” One of the most important values that her parents instilled in her was ganas, which is a Spanish term that translates to grit, tenacity and hard work. She was committed to creating a successful life for herself regardless of what other people tried to determine for her. Firmin acknowledged that she did not work that hard while she was in high school, but once she got to college her mentality shifted and she was determined to become the best person that she could be.

After college, Firmin enrolled in the Air Force to really test her strength and perseverance. Firmin was able to travel around the world and experience different types of cultures and people, even though others were not always receptive to her. She explained that “as a woman and as a Latina I was always underestimated.” Although she was constantly surrounded by such negativity, she did not let that stop her from putting her best foot forward. All of the experiences that she has had within the Air Forces has made her a better leader, but she also emphasized how transferable those leadership skills are. Whenever she moved up in rank, she was developing new skills but also always drew on previous strengths she had gained.

Toward the end of her lecture, Firmin gave a few takeaways that she wanted everyone to leave with, One of them was “bloom where you are planted,” which eloquently summed up everything that she expressed during her talk. By being the best person you can be in your current situation, everything that is meant to come your way will. I learned from Lisa Firmin that you must define success for yourself and always give your best effort in all of your life endeavors.

Written by Yasmin Cooper ’18