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Walden Magazine // Jul 23, 2018

Connections: Cultivating a Community of Engaged Alumni

Alumni Ambassadors join forces to make a difference for current Walden students and their Houston community

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman and Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero
Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman and Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero
Photo credit: Terry Halsey Photography

When Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman walked into the primary care clinic that Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero ’17, ’15 opened this past year in Houston, she expected to learn more about the clinic and watch how he worked as a clinical preceptor with current Walden nursing students. It’s a role he is happy to fill to repay the support and encouragement he received when he was a Walden student and a recent emigrant from Cuba.

But Cantero had a surprise for Hickman on the day of her visit.

“Dr. Cantero said, ‘Why don’t you take over?’” Hickman recalls. Although she was surprised to be taking center stage, she didn’t miss a beat. Hickman—a 2016 PhD in Health Services and 2009 Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) graduate—told the students about her 25-year career as a cardiology case manager and heart failure patient educator at CHI St. Luke’s Health in Houston, and then took part in a lively Q&A about her career and experiences at Walden.

“It was like Dr. Hickman, the students, and I had known each other for years,” says Cantero, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and MSN graduate. “She shared so much great advice with them on how to be truly prepared when they enter the workforce. At the end of our time together, they were all asking when she’d be back again.”

Although Hickman and Cantero are both very active Walden Alumni Ambassadors, they hadn’t met until Alumni Ambassador Manager Ulysesses Wilcox ’12 introduced them earlier this year. Now they’re making plans for Hickman to visit the clinic a few times a month to teach Cantero’s students about nutritional health, her area of specialization.

“We’re also working on planning an event for Walden’s Global Days of Service, providing basic health screenings and education to the underserved residents of the Houston community,” Hickman says. “And I’m thinking about joining Dr. Cantero on one of his international mission trips.”

To date, Cantero has traveled to India, Mexico, Egypt, Croatia, China, and Honduras to provide healthcare services and educate local medical professionals about health promotion and disease prevention.

Serving as Alumni Ambassadors has provided Hickman and Cantero with opportunities to give back to the university and current students as well as connections for growth in their field. Hickman has recently connected with two fellow Walden scholars, written an abstract that was accepted by a peer-reviewed journal, and is working on a poster presentation for a fall conference.

Hickman and Cantero both encourage current students as well as graduates to build relationships with alumni. “Walden has one of the most powerful international alumni associations,” Cantero says. “It’s a great resource as you’re working to earn your degree and build your career.”

Hickman adds: “Use Walden’s resources. Read about your fellow alumni and the alumni programs. Find alumni near you or in the same field. Connecting with likeminded people might spark a great idea or open a new path. You just need to take that first step and reach out.”

— Susan Walker