For Angelica Perez-Litwin, PhD, founder and CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, there are no obstacles—only opportunities.

“I don’t label my experiences as failures or obstacles. I have things that have worked out more than others,” said Dr. Perez-Litwin during our recent phone interview. “But I always make things work.” 

And that she does. She’s the force behind this week’s Latinas Think BIG event, that took place on Thursday the 16th of May, marking the launch of the ELLA Leadership Institute at Barnard College, Columbia University. Latinas Think BIG was inspired after Perez-Litwin visited her daughter’s university. Harvard’s ‘Think Big’ event served as a launch pad for Perez-Litwin’s, during which four trailblazing Latinas presented their big ideas built on three core values: innovation, community and impact.

Perez-Litwin is on a mission. She wants to “show the world and mainstream media, how talented, how innovative, how trailblazing Latinas really are. And, that their ideas have social impact.” To that end, ELLA Institute is a professional development center offering programs, events and access to its members.

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Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin Grooms Latina Leaders with the ELLA Institute

So, how did Perez-Litwin come up with the ELLA concept? She saw a tremendous need to connect Latinas in leadership positions. After successfully launching New Latina, the online destination for personal growth and career advancement for Latinas, created to change and revamp the image of Latina women, many women began reaching out to Perez-Litwin for coaching, mentoring or professional development questions.

Latinas wanted more than the articles. “Information wasn’t going to be enough to help them with their careers,” explained Perez-Litwin. Hence the creation of the ELLA Institute, a “multi-platform initiative that meets Latinas where they are. The organization, she explains, wants “to elevate the conversation that we are having among Latinas and about Latinas.”

Whether it is meeting them online or offline with workshops and webinars, ELLA is providing comprehensive and individualized solutions for Latinas. ELLA also has a very engaged and robust Facebook community with more than 2,000 members who believe in doing social good. 

ELLA Institute is creating a roadmap for career-driven Latinas—“where they are now and where they want to be,” says Perez-Litwin. Because professional Latinas face different issues when they enter the workplace than do non-Latinas, they need a roadmap, according to Perez-Litwin. They are usually the first generation in their families to go to college or take on leadership roles. And with few role models in corporate America, in government or in the healthcare industry, Latinas may need coaching to help them navigate these sectors. By filling this void, the institute is truly empowering Latinas. 

With a sold-out launch event this week, it seems the sky’s the limit for the ELLA Institute. Perez-Litwin wants to continue growing partnerships with organizations that have similar missions. She also sees an opportunity to go beyond the United States and expand to Central America, the Caribbean and Latin America, citing in particular the need for “so much empowerment in Latin America.”

In the meantime, Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin will continue to ‘Think BIG.’ And her blueprint for Latina leadership will help Latinas make great strides, all over the world.