María Samaniego is the Deputy Director at the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative where she oversees strategy and operations in support of their policy, advocacy and leadership development work. Prior to UCLA LPPI, she served as the Senior Program Manager at the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program where she spearheaded all aspects of their programming and partnership efforts to maximize the impact of their economic mobility policy work and increase representation of Latinos throughout the Institute’s policy and public programs. María has held several roles with Voto Latino and Occidental College’s Neighborhood Partnership Program where she led education, civic engagement and leadership development initiatives utilizing data driven best practices to improve access to opportunities in underserved communities. Maria currently serves on the Advisory Council for Support Latino Business Day and previously served on the board for Viva Panama, a nonprofit focused on raising awareness of the Panamanian community in the United States.
María is part of the 2021 cohort of the HOPE Leadership Institute, a Hispanic’s in Philanthropy Líderes Fellow and an alumnus of the Schusterman Foundation’s Reality Program. In 2020 she was awarded with an Aspen Institute Staff Achievement Award and in 2019 was named 40 under 40 in Washington, DC by Prospanica DC. She holds an MA in Education from Michigan State University, an MA in Latin American Studies from California State University, Los Angeles and a BA in Political Science and Chicano Studies from the University of California, Davis.