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Ivan Ramirez is your go-to man. He’ll help you start a new student organization on campus, advise you on what you want to do with the rest of your life, and even provide snacks. If you ever feel lost with life or school, go to his office room 320C inside the Multicultural Student Affairs office (MSA), and you’ll suddenly feel at home.

It doesn’t matter the day or time. Every day you’ll hear someone asking, “Where’s Ivan? Is he in his office? When is he coming back?” 

So what makes Ramirez so popular among students?

Maybe it is because he looks like a student—he is 32 but could pass for 25. It could also be because he’s the coordinator of Avanzando, a support program enhancing the overall Latinx student experience on campus by creating opportunities for engagement and encouraging the value of diversity.

In 2018, Ramirez became the new Avanzando coordinator with 65 scholars under his wing. In a little over a year, that number has almost tripled to 190 students. The opportunities created since he started his role have allowed students to grow their professional networks and explore their own identities.

Ramirez’s leadership and connection to students goes beyond Avanzando. Ramirez immigrated from Mexico at the age of 15. Overcoming the language barriers and cultural shock, Ramirez became the first in his family to go to college.

“I couldn’t understand English and had to teach my parents, too,” Ramirez said, reflecting back on his own college experience. 

His relatability as a first-generation college student, especially as a person of color, has made him someone people feel comfortable going to for advice. Through these commonalities, Ramirez hopes to create a change for UMKC students and families by making college and it’s process easier to understand.

That change seems to already be taking place. 

“Ivan has shown that he is passionate about helping Latinx students on campus,” said engineering student Maria Franco. “He has gone through a situation that he doesn’t want us to go through. He has inspired me to lead others and grow to be a better person.” 

Franco is just one of many who have credited Ramirez for their success.

Sophomore biology student Maria Rojas says Avanzando has given her the chance to be at the table and have a say in the decisions made around her. 

Xochitl Zamorano, a studio art senior, says Ramirez encourages students to meet, socialize and to stay in contact. 

“He is always reaching out to people to see if they’re willing to help Avanzando scholars through mentorship or internships,” Zamorano said. “There’s always someone he’ll like to introduce you to.”

Informational technology freshman Ricardo Alvarado said, “I was lost and not involved when I first came to UMKC. Once I met Ivan, he completely changed my view on getting involved and helped me a lot.”

Though the students give their thanks to Ramirez for their personal growth and that of the program, Ramirez credits them for its continued success. “It’s the students. Everything we are creating: a community, resources, new organizations. The students are creating the energy and are passing it along. It’s exciting” he said.

By continuing to improve the foundation of the program and cultivating relationships with students,  Ivan Ramirez serves as the driving influence behind the success of the Latinx students at UMKC.

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