Marlen Mendoza

Business Owner & President of LULAC Iowa City Chapter

What year did you graduate from the University of Iowa?


Degrees earned from the University of Iowa:

B.A. International Studies (Global Health Studies Track)

What is your current work?

I am a business owner and run a policy consulting business out of my home in North Liberty, IA. In my professional time, I work with various D.C based non-profits (Aspen Institute, The Forum for Youth Investment, and the Center for Law and Social Policy). I provide research, support, strategic problem solving, and project coordination on national youth-led campaigns, grant projects, and virtual town halls that center youth voices, informs them on national, state, and local policy initiatives, and uplifts the existing work they are leading on the ground. I work closely with youth and young adults between the ages of 16-25, specifically. I build trust with them and engage them to participate in the co-development of policies that they want to see in their communities. The intention here is, "nothing for us without us". We authentically engage youth in this process and provide them with the resources, tools, and social capital they need to bridge their advocacy issue into a policy agenda and tackle local issues in their communities.

In my spare time, I am the President of my local LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) chapter in Iowa City. As a volunteer-based organization, we build rapport with the local Latino community and similar organizations that serve this community to collectively pull resources from the state and city to make sure these residents have access to food, educational opportunities, know their worker's rights, and are civically engaged beyond voting. 

I'm also independently, working with a group of undocumented women who want to launch their home businesses to retail/commercial space. Through Colectivo de Mujeres en Negocio- COMUN we are empowering immigrant women to launch their business and provide for themselves a sustainable form of income. Throughout the process, they learn branding, marketing, computer, communication, and leadership development skills. Many of these are not provided in a one-stop-shop in the IC area for Latinos interested in starting a business. Our hope is that with the partnership of the city and community stakeholders we can create a model that will serve future Latino entrepreneurs and encourage them to participate in the strong local small business economy that the Iowa City Area prides itself in.

How did your International Studies degree benefit you/lead you to your current work? 

As a sophomore, I studied abroad to India for the Winterim Program under the School of Social Work then as a junior I traveled to Santiago, Chile for my spring semester under the CIEE Spanish Emersion program. Both experiences coupled with my research at the College of Public Health in the Dept of Community and Behavioral Health gave me the skills in community organizing and local policy advocacy that launched me into this word of national youth advocacy work. Keep your mind open you never know how the dots connect looking back. Steve Jobs was right about that.

Any advice for current IS students?

You have the flexibility, and creativity to build your International Studies degree to fit your vision of how you want to tackle our society's issues. Don't take that for granted, explore your local and global communities and do your best to apply what you learn in the classroom to the outside world by studying abroad, working on a capstone project or research report. Not many programs or colleges give you the amount of freedom to align your interest and passions into a degree like this one. I never saw myself as a business owner let alone get paid for the kind of transferrable skills that can only be taught in spaces where you're highly encouraged to think of solutions to complex issues in a creative, people-centered intersectional approach.


Marlen Mendoza