by Diane Cornell
A Prospanica scholarship changed the life of Janet Simms ’94 — and she didn’t even receive one.
The mission of Prospanica is to empower and enable Hispanic professionals to achieve their full educational, economic and social potential. But by the time Simms learned of the scholarships funded by the advocacy organization, she had already received her MBA. The missed opportunity, while initially distressing, motivated her advocacy for Hispanic professionals.
“I was almost upset with myself,” Simms says, recalling her reaction to being unaware of the scholarship opportunity. “The fact that I didn’t know about it, as a Latina, I thought that should not have been the case. So, I joined the organization.”
That was more than 20 years ago. Last October Simms was named to a two-year term as chair of Prospanica’s national board of directors. The organization has a reach of more than 30,000 members in 50 chapters nationwide and Puerto Rico and has advocated for Hispanic business professionals for 30 years.
Simms had worked her way up through the organization’s ranks, first as a member in New York and then as a founder and officer of the New Jersey chapter. Then in 2020, she made the leap to become part of Prospanica’s national board of directors, assuming a seat on its board as vice chair and as chair of the Prospanica Foundation before taking the helm of the organization last fall.
Her appointment coincided with an announcement that Rider and Prospanica had partnered to provide a 20% tuition reduction for participating members for undergraduate, graduate and continuing education programs, as well as eligible immediate family members who are under 24.
Simms is leading Prospanica at a pivotal time for Hispanic professionals. The organization’s 2021 report on workplace inclusion and equity found obstacles for them at work particularly difficult. Among the findings is that 50% of Hispanic professionals have personally witnessed or experienced discrimination or bias on the job.
“One of the obstacles for Hispanic professionals today is access,” says Simms, who earned a bachelor’s in accounting from Rider and a master’s in business administration from Rutgers. “I have seen this a number of times in my own career. Oftentimes I will be one of the few, if not only, Latinos in the room.”
A resident of Union, N.J., Simms has more than 25 years of experience in the financial services and insurance industries. Last fall she became the senior director of Internal Audit at Green Dot Corporation, a provider of prepaid debit cards and banking services to low- and moderate-income families.
“When I speak about diversity, it is a myriad of things,” she says. “In addition to people of color, it is a diversity of thought, getting more women into leadership roles and onto corporation boards. It is one of the things that drives me to bring attention to the challenges we have.”