By Heream Yang
Claudia Caballero was selected by the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management to receive the 2-year scholarship, awarded each academic year and valued at over $100,000.
“In my life, there are certain acontecimientos — events – that have changed the trajectory of my life forever,” Caballero said. “This is definitely one of those events, I look forward to learning new ways to bring change to the world.”
Centro Hispano de East Tennessee (Centro Hispano) empowers Knoxville’s fast-growing Latino community through workforce development, youth and family engagement, community-strengthening initiatives, and small business empowerment. As President and CEO, Caballero shapes Centro Hispano’s strategic vision. Among her major accomplishments, she has spearheaded a strategic rebrand that more than tripled revenue, diversified board leadership, and ensured financial sustainability by reengineering the funding model.
“I’ve grappled with the idea of what leadership means to me and how I can bring my full self to spaces. I’m developing and cultivating a leadership style rooted in my identity as a young Honduran-American woman,” she said. “I’ve favored collaboration and coalition building, cultivated a diverse community-oriented workplace, and nurtured people’s strengths. I have fostered unconventional partnerships throughout the community, finding common threads that bring my community’s story into the larger economic development narrative of our region, while still creating more opportunities for my community.”
Business leadership is in Caballero’s blood. Her family opened up a restaurant in their home country of Honduras when Caballero was a teen. Caballero was instrumental to growing the restaurant’s success, managing business operations and driving revenue growth as Restaurant Owner and Manager.
Having spent her childhood in both Honduras and the United States, in 2011, Caballero decided to reconnect with her American upbringing while pivoting to the nonprofit space. She moved to Ohio to work as Operations Manager of an international nonprofit, where she managed the processing and distribution of millions of dollars worth of donated medical supplies to medical facilities in Honduras. In 2014, she returned to her food industry roots, spending two years as Wholesale Account Manager of an Austin-based artisanal ice cream company before committing to her nonprofit calling as CEO and President of Centro Hispano de East Tennessee. Caballero is eager to leverage her EMBA experience to develop scalable solutions for the Latino community.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity, because less than one percent of private foundation dollars go to Latino-led nonprofits in the United States,” Caballero said. “That model doesn’t serve my community. I want to create services that can generate unrestricted funds for my organization, so that we can invest in the strategic priorities that we know we have as a community.”
Reflecting on Caballero’s selection for the scholarship, Executive Director Juli Bennett said, “What impressed me when meeting with Claudia was not only her passion for creating opportunities for the Latino community in East Tennessee, but her recognition that to have broader, sustainable impact, the work she is doing must be scalable. Claudia is a bold leader, and I get excited knowing her experience at Owen will position her to be the strategic leader she desires to become.”
Vanderbilt Business launched the scholarship program in 2006 to give career assistance to one deserving nonprofit executive each year. Applications are open to executives and senior staff members of any 501(c)(3) organization who have demonstrated a strong commitment to serving in the nonprofit sector. The scholarship is offered in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Management. Caballero was chosen from a pool of admitted applicants coming into the highly ranked Executive MBA program.
To learn more about Vanderbilt’s Executive MBA program, click here.
To learn more about available scholarship opportunities for Executive MBA students, click here.