Leadership Team


Elena Benedicto

Elena Benedicto
Professor of Linguistics

I grew up bilingual in Barcelona, with Catalan and Spanish, the eldest child and the only girl in a family of immigrants.  I always thought that my biggest ‘luck’ was to have a great aunt, that had migrated a generation before us, who went from being a maid to being the first woman to hold a technical job in the electric company in Barcelona, and who rented an apartment 6 blocks away from the University.  We ended up in that apartment, 30 years later, and that closeness allowed me to go to college in the evening shift while I was working in an office during the day.  And that way I ended up being the first one in my family to finish high school and go to college, where a professor in my first year told me ‘you are going to do research, right?’ * … and that way I ended up doing a doctorate… on Latin!  I came to the U.S. at 29 and got a Ph.D. in Linguistics from UMass Amherst and ended up at Purdue for my first job as a professor in the US.  Since I can remember, language was always my passion; I have worked on Catalan, on indigenous languages in Nicaragua and on Sign Languages across the world, dedicated to the right of people to their own language, an important part of one’s own identity.  I direct the  Indigenous and Endangered Languages Lab at Purdue whose mission it is to train speakers of non-dominant languages in the tools of Linguistics, to facilitate the empowerment of new generations of speakers as linguists.  I salute my great aunt and thank the teachers that believed in me… and encourage my students to fight for their dream. 

*That teacher passed away last March, victim of Covid-19, alone, 3 days after his last birthday.

Jesus Romero

Jesus Romero
Coordinator for Leadership Development

I am originally from California but I have been in the Midwest for the past 6 years.  Spanish was my first language and it was the only language spoken at home so I didn’t pick up English until I started school.  Despite attending a predominantly Latino school district, I didn’t really think much about my racial identity until college.  In college, through my involvement in MECha and my major courses in Ethnic Studies, I finally began to see myself as Latino and not just someone of Mexican descent.  This prompted me to understand the importance of community and the need to address issues of access and retention in higher education, particularly for communities of color.  After earning my Masters in Educational Leadership,  I was looking for an opportunity to engage with students in authentic ways where we can discuss how our multiple social identities influence the way we lead.  I really enjoy deconstructing the ways in which we have traditionally thought of leadership in order for students to understand that leadership is something that can be learned and it is best practiced collectively.  Through courses, workshops, and retreats, students also come to understand how everyone has something to contribute to the leadership process.

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