A Real Winner

by | May 30, 2017 | Alumni Profiles, Spring/Summer 2017

José Quiñonez ’94 is a genius. That’s according to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which this past fall recognized him with a coveted no-strings, six-figure “genius grant” for his work bridging the gap between banks and low-income immigrants. Quiñonez leads Mission Asset Fund, nationally recognized for a program that provides zero-interest loans to immigrants who then can open bank accounts, build credit, pay down high-cost debt and increase savings. “We recognize that there is a rich tradition in the immigrant community of coming together to lend and save money, which is a phenomenal activity that happens the world over,” said Quiñonez, who was among 23 MacArthur award recipients in 2016. “So we are formalizing it, reporting on the payment activities so that can be part of their credit history and bringing them out of the shadows.” At UC Davis, Quiñonez was one of a handful of students who staged a hunger strike to establish the Cross Cultural Center. “I never thought I — that radical rabble-rouser who was always demonstrating and slept in front of Mrak Hall for six days — would be recognized in this way. It demonstrates that you don’t have to be a certain kind of leader. Leadership and innovation come in all forms, shapes and sizes.”