Lydia Ortiz ’96

Refining Her Focus

By Donna Parker

Lydia Ortiz ’96 has walked the powerful halls of our nation’s Capitol, but says her greatest achievement and challenge is being full-time mom to her children – 3 ½ year old Santiago and 1 ½ year old Solana.

“I felt like trying to manage work and two young kids was just too much, so I quit my job a few months ago.  The juggling act just wasn’t for me,” says this public policy and environmental issues specialist who now lives in Austin.

“After Trinity, I attended the Syracuse Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs on an academic fellowship; then it was onto D.C. to work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, focusing on urban planning and sustainability issues.”

“Now, I’m up to my ears in finger paint and sippy cups!  My husband Hector and I love going to our neighborhood park and experiencing all of the outdoorsy and family-friendly things Austin has to offer. It’s funny because people don’t typically read the alumni news and think being a full-time mom would be a great achievement, or on the same level as other professional accomplishments, but I really feel like this is what I should be doing right now – working to be the best mom.”

Lydia is also preparing to host a Latino Alumni Reception during Trinity’s Alumni Weekend, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 20 at 3:30 pm in the Holt Conference Center.

“The idea actually came out of a conversation at a small conference last year in which current Trinity students, faculty, and alumni explored the history of Latinos on campus,” says Lydia.

“This is a perfect example of how Trinity encourages students to examine complex issues through debate and discussion.  It’s one of the things I love about the school.  When I went in, I wanted to become a news broadcaster – any other school would have trained me to do that, but Trinity peeled the onion back and defined the role of media in society and how it impacts other issues.  By the time I left campus, I knew that I wanted to devote my career to examining environmental and economic policy issues.”

Lydia names Dr. Arturo Madrid, department of modern languages and literatures, and Dr. Rob Huesca, department of communication, as two of her mentors and role models.

“Each was a critical influence.  Dr. Madrid’s warm support and distinguished accomplishments continue to be a source of inspiration.  Dr. Huesca’s irreverence and his continual challenge of conventional attitudes helped shape my passion for advocacy.

Lydia has done her fair share of that in the public policy world she left behind.  She served as chair of the City of Austin Planning Commission and helped start Liveable City, a non-profit focused on quality of life in Austin.  She also worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration overseeing grant awards to economically-distressed communities and PeopleFund, a non-profit community financial institution, training small business owners in civic leadership.

It really just comes down to finding the right balance, according to Lydia, who stepped off the fast track and now answers to two toddlers who are providing the real meaning of life.

E-mail Lydia @ lydiaortiz@hotmail.com