Laura E. (Lopez) Gutiérrez '95
2022 Recipient for the Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement - College of Arts and Sciences
Serving children and families has been a priority for Laura Gutiérrez '95 believing that education is the best inheritance we can provide a child. In her leadership roles as Secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services for the state of Wisconsin—and now as Executive Director for the United Community Center (UCC) in Milwaukee, Wis., Gutiérrez works to empower others to not only achieve their goals but make a difference in their community.
Gutiérrez is the first woman and first neighborhood native to lead the United Community Center. The organization serves the Hispanic community with clients ages six weeks to 100+ on Milwaukee’s south side in areas of education, youth pre-college and prevention programs, elderly care, adult recovery services, neighborhood development and health and human services. Her leadership follows fellow Carroll peers, Ricardo Diaz '74 (executive director at UCC 1984-1988 and 2003-2020) and Dr. Walter Sava, former assistant professor of Spanish at Carroll (executive director at UCC from 1989-2003).
Her tenure at the UCC began in 2020 during one of the more challenging years in the agency’s history. With broad agency closures due to the pandemic, Gutiérrez has fought to continue services to client groups, including being one of the only public schools in the city of Milwaukee to re-open in September 2020 for in-person learning. With the client and community needs as priority, she leads her team to ensure services continue in any format possible. She leads the agency’s comprehensive programs, including Bruce-Guadalupe Community School, UCC Acosta Middle School, and family supportive services alongside a tenured senior leadership team and more than 400 dedicated employees.
Recently celebrating 50 years of service in 2020, the agency recently completed a $12.M capital campaign to construct a state-of-the-art Early Learning Academy to serve children as young as six weeks and provide Head Start and quality early childhood programming to one of the most densely populated and impoverished zip codes in the state.
Gutiérrez returned to UCC after many years there previously in a variety of roles including Assistant Principal and Director of Instruction at Bruce Guadalupe Community School, as well as classroom teacher and a Drug Prevention Outreach worker when she was just a teen at UCC’s New Beginnings Clinic.
Just prior to her leadership post at UCC, Gutiérrez was appointed in 2017 to the position Secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services for the state of Wisconsin. In this position, she led a staff of more than 250 and managed a biennial budget of $100M. She oversaw the credentialing and licensing of over 440,000 of the state’s licensed professionals and management over many State programs as it related to public safety, economic growth, and stability.
Previously she served as Vice President of Academic Affairs at St. Anthony School in Milwaukee, as well as a clinical and microbiology laboratory assistant at Waukesha Memorial Hospital. She was the keynote speaker in 2018 at Carroll University’s annual Alumnae Leadership Luncheon helping celebrate the achievements of women in the Pioneer community.
A Milwaukee native, Gutiérrez graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Carroll with a major in Spanish and Biology and continued her postgraduate work at Marquette University earning a Master of Arts in Leadership and Policy. She also completed the District Administrator Licensure Program at Cardinal Stritch University and received her Superintendent license in 2016. She resides in Windlake with her husband George, and together, they have four children.