Transformative Latina Leadership Lecture: Dorene Dominguez ('85) discusses breaking barriers as Vanir CEO

Author: Angela Olvera

Dorene C. Dominguez, a Notre Dame alumna and business entrepreneur, joined the Institute of Latino Studies for a public lecture on September 19th as part of Notre Dame's Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long celebration held from September 15th to October 15th. Recognized as a national holiday, it serves as a way for Latinx culture and history to be celebrated. At Notre Dame, the Institute for Latino Studies has a tradition of holding events to celebrate this important holiday on campus.

Formally, Dominguez ('85) was also the headliner for the Institute's annual Transformative Latino Leadership Lecture. However, in recognition of 50 years of women at Notre Dame, the event’s title was changed to the Transformative Latina Lecture, honoring the unique perspective and accomplishments of Latinas at Notre Dame and in the community.

Dominguez is the CEO of Vanir, a real estate and construction management company in San Bernardino, California. Vanir has offices in eight states and about 400 employees. In addition, Dominguez is also a member of the Board of Trustees for Notre Dame.

At the lecture, in which she was interviewed by ILS Director and Political Science Professor Luis Fraga, she talked about how she seeks to bring to the board the same values she instills in her company: inclusivity, empowerment, and collaboration. Such a work ethic lifts, rather than silences, fresh and upcoming voices.

Dominguez has won numerous awards, including the 2018 Female Entrepreneur of the Year award from the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the 2019 Latino Spirit Award for Achievement in Business and Philanthropy from the California Legislature's Latino Caucus. 

Outside of construction and real estate, she is a minority owner of the NBA's Sacramento Kings franchise, and serves as Coca-Cola's Hispanic Advisory Council Member.

Dorene Dominguez
Dorene Dominguez ('85): Vanir CEO & Notre Dame Trustee

During her public address, Dominguez gave a look into her background and upbringing in San Bernardino. She spoke about her educational struggles and how mentoring from a local teacher led her to apply to Notre Dame. Being one of the first Latina women to attend the business school prepared her for “entering male-dominated fields”, such as construction management and politics; it also drove her passion for inclusivity in the professional world.

Dominguez stressed the importance of women helping other women, especially in the workplace. She referenced how “an abundance mentality is crucial.” You should be expanding your success toward fellow women, “not fighting over the crumbs,” she told the audience of roughly 50 students, staff and community member.

Melissa Osorio, a first-year undergraduate student studying Science-Business, attended the lecture and was moved by Dominguez’s advice.

“I felt a sparkle of inspiration hearing Ms. Dominguez's story. Not only has she been successful, but she has positively impacted many students' lives,” Osorio said.

Indeed, Dorene Dominguez is a shining example of empowerment through education. As a first-generation Latina in business, her accomplishments are a propelling force for generations to come.

Honoring Latina voices through the Transformative Latina Leadership Lecture Series sends a clear message: si se puede.

As the university continues to give space to such success stories, hopefully they will become the norm for Latinas in higher ed and professional fields. Women deserve a place at the table and more.