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Eighth Annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony Celebrates Career Successes

by Isaiah Voss

SLU-Madrid's Alumni Association honored distinguished alumni for their exceptional endeavors on November 22, 2022. 

"It's thrilling to recognize our alumni and their impact on their respective communities — in Spain and around the world" said Academic Dean and Director Paul Vita, Ph.D. "Their success reflects SLU's mission — to form people committed to creating a more just world."

Ms. Benslimane accepting Emerging Leader Award virtually via Zoom.

Yasmina Benslimane accepting Emerging Leader Award virtually via Zoom. Photo by Isaiah Voss.

Jessica de la Morena ('96-'98) — Lifetime Achievement Award 

Jessica de la Morena is CEO and founder of two companies: Creating the Unimaginable, which helps transform companies to lead them towards a successful future; and U are the Hero, an app that supports people overcoming difficult challenges in their life such as mental health issues, cancer, and domestic abuse. She created these companies after working more than 20 years at companies such as American Express, KPMG Spain and Amadeus. 

De la Morena is an International MBA professor at IE. She is also a TLC Lion Storyteller, a board member with the World Happiness Foundation, chair of the Transformational Leadership Committee and chair of the World Empowerment and Wellness Commission. 

Rodrigo Urbina ('09) — Professional Achievement Award 

While Rodrigo Urbina was a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Iraq, he discovered how much he loved volunteering and helping others. After being in the army, he earned a degree in international business from SLU-Madrid. While studying, he also taught English in Ethiopia. After graduating, he worked at Cobra and Randstad, but soon returned to SLU-Madrid to work in the Office of Student Life.

He then became director of student life at New York University in Madrid. He eventually settled in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Once there, he started volunteering at the Red Cross and now he is the director of the Red Cross Emergency Attention Center, assisting refugees during the current migration crisis. He is currently preparing for public service exams to work with inmates in the penitentiary system. 

Yasmina Benslimane ('17) — Emerging Leader Award 

Yasmina Benslimane has more than seven years of experience as a feminist human rights defender at human rights institutions, nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies in several countries. She received a B.A. in Political Science from SLU-Madrid, an M.A. in International Law and Settlement from the United Nations Mandated University for Peace and is pursuing an M.A. in Forced Migration and Refugee Protection Studies with the School of Advanced Study, University of London. 

Benslimane has given talks at universities, radio stations, NGOs, U.N. agencies, and youth-led initiatives about social and global issues. 

She is a trained U.N. Women peacebuilder and a certified women-empowerment coach, helping women learn about leadership. Finally, she is also the founder of Politics4Her, a feminist youth-led blog encouraging women to be included in politics.

Katherine Espinosa ('13) — Emerging Leader Award 

Katherine Espinosa continues to be an active member of the SLU-Madrid community by hosting Alumni Award and convocation ceremonies. She received her B.A. in Spanish from SLU-Madrid in 2013 and a master's in Applied Linguistics from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and EFL and professional translation certifications.  

Ms. Espinosa has been a part of the communication industry for more than 10 years as a communication and language arts teacher at Saint Charles College, public speaking and intercultural communication trainer, co-founder of the Intercultural Pro Network, and as the vice president and senior developer for Leadership for Leaders. 

Xavier Cottini ('89 MBA) — Faculty Award 

Xavier Cottini is an accounting and finance professor at SLU-Madrid. He earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Université d'Orléans in 1987. He then received an M.B.A. in Finance from SLU-St. Louis in 1989. He completed an advanced program of credit risk analysis at Instituto de Estudios Bursátiles in 2004. 

The celebration also recognized this year's two Distinguished Collaborator recipients: Macmillan Education and the British Embassy Madrid. Both organizations have collaborated with Career Services at SLU-Madrid,  providing students with hands-on internships. 

Share your success story on SLU-Madrid's Career Services page