President, Marymount University, Arlington
“Prepare, prepare, prepare. Persist, persist, persist.” That mantra has carried Becerra, whose family fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba for Puerto Rico when she was an infant, to the presidency of Marymount University.
“From immigrant to university president in a lifetime” is an extraordinary story, but one that she credits in part to the opportunities the United States offered her. “We left Cuba with no assets,” she says, “but I learned from my grandmother that no one can ever take away your education.”
So, instead of partying like so many students, Becerra “hunkered down and focused” on her studies, earning degrees from the University of Miami. Losing everything can turn people into pragmatists, and she followed her family’s advice to pursue a field that had good job prospects, becoming the first woman to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering from Florida International University.
“I prepared my whole life for this job,” Becerra says of her path to becoming president of Marymount, a private, Catholic university, in 2018. Since then, she has instituted a plan to raise the school’s reputation for innovation and added market-driven programs that prioritize career preparation.
“I love to affect the lives of students and what they can accomplish,” Becerra says, and she believes students can accomplish a lot if they only prepare and persist like she did. “People may say no, but you have to be ready to try again,” she tells them. “I look at setbacks with gratitude because each one has made me better.”