Dedicated to Student Success: CDE Academic Coaches

By: Mike Meginnis

The Center for Diversity & Enrichment (CDE), located at 2750 University Capitol Centre in downtown Iowa City, provides a variety of services and programming for underrepresented and underserved pre-college and college students that enhance the cultural, social, and academic experiences of students at the University of Iowa. CDE programs build community, celebrate cultures, and foster students’ academic skills in a welcoming environment that encourages student success.

CDE Academic Coaches had a total of 4,625 student contact points between the 5 of them in 2018-2019 academic year.

About 46% of the undergraduate population and 23% of the graduate population are eligible for CDE services.

This programming would not be possible without our amazing coaches. Read on to find out more about the wonderful staff of dedicated coaches in the CDE.

CueponiChiuatl and her service dog

CueponiCihuatl Espinoza, M.Ed.
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Cueponi Cihuatl is our newest coach and a strong advocate for students. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, she grew up in Conesville, Iowa. Her name means “blooming/blossoming womxn.” She is an alumna of the Latina Leadership Initiative of Greater Des Moines, where she worked with the Polk County Health Department. She is also the cofounder of the nonprofit Latinos for Washington, Inc., and was the youngest Latinx in Iowa to be inducted into the Latino Hall of Fame as the first recipient of the Latinx Youth Leadership Award.  
Cueponi Cihuatl’s hobbies are cooking and traveling, and her favorite book is The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdés-Rodríguez. Her favorite holiday is Day of the Dead.  
Her favorite thing about working with students is empowering them to see their potential, and she enjoys her working relationships with the Hawkeye Service Team and the Pride Alliance Center.

Fun fact about Cueponi Cihuatl: She owns an avocado farm.

sarah lambert

Sarah Lambert, M.S.
Pronouns: They, Them, Theirs
Sarah is an academic coach whose goofy sense of humor and passion for helping students make them an inspiration to their peers. They enjoy reading, napping in hammocks, going to the dog park, dancing, and going to concerts. Their favorite book is Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, and their favorite local place to eat is Oasis Falafel, which may have the best hummus in Iowa City. Their favorite things to work on with students are questions about fit with a major, graduate school, or career path, and issues with imposter syndrome. Some of the campus partners they work with include the UI Latinx Council, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and the Trans Inclusivity Taskforce. They also oversee the successful Storm Lake Scholars program in collaboration with faculty advisor Jorge Guerra, a lecturer with a joint appointment in Latina/o/x Studies and the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing.

Fun facts about Sarah: They’re a very good whistler; they’ve been doing swing dance for seven years; they really like languages, and are currently working on learning their fourth (ASL).



Carlos Nelson

Carlos Nelson, MA.Ed.
Pronouns: He, Him, His
Carlos is not only an academic coach, but a longtime basketball coach as well. He brings a love of guiding and inspiring students to his work at CDE, and his consistently high level of energy helps to motivate his colleagues too. He enjoys traveling with family, reading biographies and books on leadership, exercise, and playing basketball at the UI rec center. His favorite local restaurant is SugaPeach Soul Food.
His favorite thing to work on with students is helping them find what their passions and motivations in life are. Some of the campus partners he works with include the Young, Gifted & Black program, Black in Business series/dinner, the Iowa First Nations Summer Program, UI Athletics, and Hawks & Eyas Peer Mentoring.
Fun facts about Carlos: Carlos coached college basketball for eight years, he’s very proud of his grandson, and he’s also a big Tupac fan—he loves Tupac’s poetry, and even met him once.



Blanca Ramirez

Blanca Ramirez, M.S.
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Blanca is a dedicated and witty academic coach. She loves nature and spends her free time hiking, walking (barefoot if possible), gardening, swimming, and playing in the mud with her children. In the past, her pets have included Elvis, a cockatiel, and two cats named Rico and Nena. Currently she has Lucas, a wild Boxer. Her absolute favorite restaurant is El Wero, a street restaurant in her hometown of Parral, Chihuahua, and her favorite books are The Notebook and The Alchemist.
Blanca’s favorite thing to work on with students is planning for the future. “I truly enjoy finding out about what their goals are and helping them achieve those.” Her office is fully decorated with art, nice furniture, and welcoming plants—a few of which are plastic. Some of the campus partners she works with include the Latinx Council, UI Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, Tippie College of Business, and the Native American Council.
Fun facts about Blanca: She loves to dance! She also sleepwalks and has funny conversations while she’s sleeping, which, amazingly, she typically remembers the next day.



Katie Newcomb

Katie Newcomb, B.A.
Pronouns: She, Her, Hers
Katie is our longest-serving academic coach, and was recently promoted to the role of Senior Academic Coach. She enjoys trying new restaurants with her husband and working with him to recreate favorite dishes at home, though she says so far “it’s been a hit or miss experiment.” Her favorite local restaurant is St. Burch Tavern. She also likes decorating, spending time with family, and watching documentaries. Katie’s favorite thing to work on with students is helping them problem solve. “Sometimes it’s as simple as finding a direct phone number to a resource, and sometimes it’s navigating a difficult conversation with a roommate. Seeing a weight lifted off their shoulders feels really good.” She also enjoys her work with the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) campus team, and has loved being involved in the Iowa Edge program since she joined CDE.
Fun fact about Katie: She loves fairies, and even has a fairy tattoo!