Carnegie Mellon University

Panel Discussion: The Challenges of the Latino Community in the Pittsburgh Region

Friday, October 8, 2021
12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET via Zoom

Join us for a panel discussion of the challenges of the Latino community in Pittsburgh, including living conditions and the effectiveness of public engagement. IPS Professor Ignacio Arana will moderate the discussion. Joining him will be:

  • Monica Ruiz-Caraballo, Executive Director, Casa San José
  • Belkys Torres, Executive Director for Global Engagement, University Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh
  • Sister Janice Vanderneck, Founding Director and current Director of Civic Engagement, Casa San José
  • Guillermo Velázquez, Executive Director, Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation

This event is generously co-sponsored by the University Lecture Series.


About Monica Ruiz-Caraballo:

Monica Ruiz-Caraballo is the Executive Director at Casa San José. Monica has been working with Casa since 2014 when she started as an intern, then moved to service coordinator and then community organizer. Prior to that, she worked for Catholic Charities as a case manager. She was born in Cleveland Ohio and has Latino roots from Guatemala and Puerto Rico, where her mom and her dad are originally from. She is a proud mother of one daughter and four sons. She loves cooking and enjoys playing soccer with her children.

Monica holds a master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Community Organizing and Social Action. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in Psychology.

Monica is a powerful advocate for Latinos on legal, housing, development, and educational issues. She fights for those facing deportation proceedings and launches projects to assist women, children, and youth. In addition, she partners with political, labor, religious, and law enforcement leadership to make Pittsburgh stronger and more welcoming to all.

Monica recently received the 2021 Women and Business Award from Pittsburgh Magazine as well as the 2021 Dr. Cyril Wecht Western PA Humanitarian Award. She also received the 2019 Women of Influence Award, Pittsburgh Business Times and the 2019 César Chávez Community Heroes Award. She was awarded with the 2018 New Person of the Year from Thomas Merton Center and the 2018 Rising Star from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Social Work. She is currently a fellow of Lead Now Pittsburgh, a transformational leadership program for the civic sector.

Monica serves on the following boards:

She also serves as Commissioner for the City of Pittsburgh on the Equal Opportunity Review Commission (EORC) and as a Commissioner for Governor Wolf on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs (GACLA). 

About Sister Janice Vanderneck:

Sister Janice Vanderneck is the Founding Director of Casa San José. She is a Catholic religious sister with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, and she has worked in Latin America, educating and organizing community members to think critically about power structures, oppression, and political engagement. In the US, Sister Janice worked for decades as a religion teacher and principal at Catholic elementary schools in the Pittsburgh region.

Sister Janice is a member of the Advisory Council on Immigrants and Internationals for the Department of Human Services of Allegheny County, and she is currently a member of the Welcoming Pittsburgh Steering Committee.

Sister Janice has received numerous awards for her extraordinary service. They include: the Michael McGrady Award for Service at the Art Rooney Awards Dinner in 2017, the OHTLI Award for 2017 given by the Secretariat of the Mexican Government for service to the Mexican community in the US, the 2016 El Sol Award from the Hispanic Attorneys Committee of the Allegheny Bar Association and the 2021 Volunteer Preceptor of the Year (IPPE) awarded by the School of Pharmacy of the University of Pittsburgh.

About Guillermo Velázquez:

Guillermo Velázquez is the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation (PHDC). As Executive Director, Mr. Velázquez is responsible for the operations of PHDC and for implementing its mission in economic and community development. A Business Incubator, Housing, Employment, Investment, Training, and Career Development are activities of the Hispanic Corporation.

Mr. Velázquez began his career at Desarrollo Empresarial Mexicano (DESEM), an entrepreneurship program in Mexico City (also known as Junior Achievement Mexico), where he was a member for ten years. The program teaches entrepreneurs how to start, manage, and operate a new business. Mr. Velázquez has a wealth of experience assisting US-based companies in expanding internationally and foreign companies seeking to develop their local and international markets. His specialty is market entry strategies and market penetration. Mr. Velázquez's involvement in the Latino community of Pittsburgh is since 1998. He has served as a board member on various organizations such as the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; LACU - Latin American Union Culture; and COESA, the Brazilian Association of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Velázquez has worked at Nissan Motor's Headquarters Office in Mexico City, the World Trade Center Pittsburgh, and Conco Services Corp as Manager for Latin America. Guillermo Velázquez has an MBA in Global Management and Business Administration from Point Park University, a Bachelor's Degree in Business Relations, Marketing, and International Business. Furthermore, he also holds a diploma in computer systems and an English diploma as a second language. He is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and English.