Introducing BIIN’s New Director, Ana-Luisa Ortiz

Published by Program Manager on

Introducing BIIN’s New Director, Ana-Luisa Ortiz

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Ana-Luisa Ortiz

BIIN relies on the skills and contributions of a diverse group of individuals including employees, board members, volunteers, donors, community partners, and clients to achieve its mission. Having benefited for many months from the leadership of Vannessa Rivera, BIIN is beginning a new phase of its journey, welcoming the new director Ana-Luisa Ortiz. Being an immigrant herself, Ana-Luisa, sometimes referred to as Annie, has a substantial amount of experience working with immigrant communities and at-risk populations. She is a native of Baja California, Mexico, and the route that she has taken to get to where she is today–pursuing her Ph.D. at Texas A&M–was extensive and challenging. In many different ways, Annie has worked towards achieving the same goal: working for an organization with a mission like BIIN.

Crossing Borders

Ana-Luisa was born and partially raised in Mexicali, Baja California. From a young age, she attended a Catholic school where she was educated by nuns several days out of the week. Thanks to the nuns’ teachings, Annie experienced helping immigrants early on in life. She recalls a vivid memory in which her class was given the task to help an elderly woman get a new cooking stove. The elderly lady dedicated her time to feeding children that were left abandoned at the border, and she did so by cooking out of a blue trash can. It was this experience in which Annie realized she wanted to work with at-risk communities. She expressed her interest and was told by the nuns that she could only do so by joining their ranks. At 8 years old, she was convinced that she was going to stay in Baja California, and dedicate her life to serving God and migrant communities. However, a year later, she herself would become an immigrant child and move across borders.

In Mexico, her grandfather and father upheld a small agricultural business that sustained her family. But, Annie’s mother dreamed of relocating north to the United States, where some of her siblings had already resided for some time. In the Fall of 1995, her family moved to Reno, Nevada, with some of her extended family members. Filled with anxiety, Annie felt overwhelmed moving to a new location given that it meant leaving her friends, family, and old home. There were five families–over 20 people to be specific- living in a four-bedroom single-family home. Annie recollects that with the size of the family members under one roof, everyone worked for the collective good. The women of the house took turns making meals, and together everyone went to the laundromat to wash clothes. Annie recalls how tough those times were, however, she looks back fondly remembering certain details like how the kitchen never closed, the games never-ending, and how close her family became. 

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Anna and her mom participating in a school event.


Moving to the United States gave Annie the experience of being an immigrant herself. She moved over 30 times before she graduated high school, and to add to the constant change, her parents divorced. Annie emphasizes the comfort she found in books during the tough moments in her life. After spending a gradual amount of time at a library, they offered her what would be her first job. Following her junior librarian duties, she was invited to help create a mural, even with no prior artistic experience. It was at that moment that she fell in love with painting and began paying for classes. “Being able to express myself creatively saved me and gave me a tool for life.”

After graduating and obtaining her citizenship, she felt as though her chances of succeeding were slim to none. Instead of going the traditional route and attending college right after high school, Annie decided to take an exam that would help her become one of the youngest paraprofessionals in her local school district. She started working with the school district and soon began what would become a decade-long career journey in education, spanning multiple positions, and responsibilities. Annie served at-risk populations through the Washoe County School District by serving as an ESL Teacher Assistant, a Lead Attendance Secretary, the point of contact for the immigrant communities, etc. In her spare time away from the school district, she helped her parents grow their small maintenance company into a thriving construction company in Northern Nevada and California. It was while she undertook many responsibilities with the school district and her parents’ company, that she continued to paint. Over time she worked on several murals and began taking a commission for her work. 

Her passion for working with others and serving communities led her to attain a degree in International Affairs with a double minor in Business and Spanish at the University of Nevada-Reno. She believed that upon completion, she would return to the border. However, she had a career between two jobs which helped her operate toward her original goal: working with immigrants and at-risk communities. Her position allowed her to gain communication skills, which opened networking opportunities for her such as coordinating fundraising events for the Nevada CASA Association.

After becoming a mom and a decade in the school district, she began working as an assistant project coordinator at the International Gaming and Technology Company (IGT), one of the largest gaming companies in the world. She was tasked with overseeing three studios for two years while tracking the manufacturing of machines and their components from artists and engineers to the print shop and delivery. Annie states that IGT increased her knowledge of logistics and administration while being introduced to coding, fundamental graphic design, and numerous gambling-related rules. Although she enjoyed her time in the gaming industry, Annie soon realized that she missed working first-hand with communities. She hoped and prayed that she would be able to follow her calling once again, and she vowed to open every door given the opportunity. Annie quit IGT in November of 2018 to pursue a Master of Art in Communication Studies. She believed that after graduation, she would be better equipped to pursue her goal of helping the people she loved and the community, and similar to undergrad, she believed that she would return to serve her community. However, her love for communications led her to pursue a Ph.D.

To date, Annie continues to share vital memories and moments in her life with her family. Pictured above are Annie and her daughter.

Stepping Up 

Through the aid of an advisor who took a job at Texas A&M, Annie followed to pursue a doctorate in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Rhetorical Border Studies, Race, and Decoloniality, though her work is mostly in rhetoric. At Texas A&M she has also been able to incorporate her creativity into her work being that many of her projects implement art as methodologies and auto-ethnography. With the help of her church, she learned about Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network and was immediately drawn to it. The opportunity to work for BIIN is a job that Annie has been searching for her entire life. In the midst of pursuing her doctorate, Annie has known that she was meant to go back and work with at-risk communities. She is equipped with management experience, educational background, language, history, willingness to learn, and, most importantly, the life experience to fulfill the director position at BIIN. 

Annie is excited about her new position and is looking forward to the tasks that she will undertake. “I often attribute my accomplishments to the need to survive; to be an immigrant in the U.S. means to be in constant movement towards survival. I think more than my ability to survive is my ability to shift positionalities, which helps me move forward. It is my border identity that helps me to stand in many different places at once. When I embrace and allow things to clash, I am able to change routes, alter myself when needed, and find the power to move forward” (Ortiz-Martinez, Ana-Luisa 2021).

With the love Annie has gained for art, she has been able to instill its practices into some of her teachings at Texas A&M.

As she steps into her new director role in the upcoming month of July 2023, Annie looks forward to meeting and working alongside the BIIN team and community.

Thank you to our Summer 2023 Intern Azuzena for interviewing and writing this story; and to Peyton and Lauren for editing.

Categories: Faces of BIIN