Writing her life
As a senior adviser in the mayor’s office, this alumna uses stories to bring communities together.
Alumna Rowena Alegría has one piece of advice for current MSU Denver students: “Don’t fear failure.”
“I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough, that someone might not like me or that I’d make a mistake. Now I’m older and I realize that’s all baloney. Do what you know in your heart you have to do and you will find success,” she said.
Alegría grew up in southwest Denver. Neither of her adopted parents had attended college and her high school didn’t have college support services like schools do today. Alegría had always wanted to be a writer and attend college, but she simply didn’t know how to get there.
So, after graduating from high school, she got a job. Luckily, she worked with a woman who was a good role model.
“She was taking classes at night at MSU Denver, and I realized I could do it, too,” said Alegría, who graduated magna cum laude in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in creative writing.
If you study Alegría’s career path, you’ll quickly figure out that she has a passion for words. She worked for a few small magazines and a newspaper while in college; earned an internship and then a full-time job with The Denver Post; served as publisher and editor of Viva Colorado; and worked as Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s chief communications officer.
“I’ve been able to build a career using words,” she said. “I’ve been blessed.”
Alegría says that one of her most fulfilling roles is the one she currently holds as senior adviser of Community Communications for Mayor Hancock. In this role, Alegría serves as a communications liaison from the mayor directly to communities, neighborhoods and residents, and vice versa.
“I love this role,” she said. “The city has never done this kind of outreach before. I am trying to build bridges between people and the government. I work with all communities, but the reality is that poorer communities or Spanish-speaking communities, immigrants and refugees often have no idea what’s going on in their city. They don’t know how they can participate in the government and how they can get services.
I hope to create a system that will exist long into the future to make sure that those who are less connected can find a way to be part of their city.”
According to Janice Sinden, Mayor Hancock’s chief of staff, Alegría is excelling in her current position and making a difference. “Rowena is a tremendous storyteller. Anyone can share facts, but Rowena’s writing gives the facts color and texture and flavor. She makes people want to participate in our vision for the city,” she said.
Looking back on her career, Alegría says that her time at MSU Denver transformed her into a woman who believed in herself.
“I had friends who used to tease me and call me a ‘Chicana from the west side.’ I had a lot of makeup and lots of attitude,” she said with a laugh. “Once I got into MSU Denver, I was able to figure out who I was beyond that façade. Emotionally, intellectually and historically, MSU Denver helped me to figure out who I was, and I’ve been able to build on that my entire life.”