Rainforest Mentors

New Mexico Rainforest University Center provides Site Mentors to be available as an interface for any questions and to serve as a connection point for resources related to your entrepreneurial endeavors or training.

Please reach out to Cecilia Pacheco, at cpacheco@innovations.unm.edu to further connect you to the appropriate mentor.


Cecilia Pacheco

Site Mentor - UNM Main

Cecilia joined UNM Innovations as an Innovation Intern in April 2017. She was brought on to Rainforest Innovations staff as a Marketing and Ventures Assistant in July 2018. In May 2019, she transitioned to an Economic Development & Project Specialist position where she provides various forms of support to both Rainforest Innovations and the Air Force Research Lab regarding marketing, commercialization, and economic development endeavors.

Cecilia has a B.L.A with a concentration in Spanish and Clinical Studies as well as an M.B.A with a dual concentration in Organizational Behavior and Strategic Planning and Policy from the University of New Mexico and Anderson School of Management.


Susan Cornelius

Site Mentor - UNM Valencia

Susan Cornelius is the Principal of Accelerate2Solutions, an innovative, small, high tech company focused on creating successful, lean start-ups. Susan has coached more than 71 companies, and created seven start-up companies, ranging from $500M to $150,000, helping them emerge as successful high tech, and life and health sciences companies. Susan brings 30 years of experience in start-ups, mergers, acquisitions, and successful, entrepreneurship in healthcare, research, enterprise software service solutions, medical devices, national defense, and high tech sensing devices for homeland security.


Kara Q. Smith

Site Mentor - UNM Gallup

Kara Q. Smith is the executive director of Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District in Gallup, NM, where she focuses on small business support, creative economic development strategies, and community engagement. Before holding this position, she spent 13 years working for museums, galleries, and non-profit institutions. She has curated exhibitions, spoken at art fairs and symposiums, officiated workshops and lectures, and written for numerous publications. Kara also currently holds an adjunct faculty position in Sierra Nevada University’s Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program, is a board member of Keep Gallup Clean and Beautiful, and serves as a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mountain Region program.

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John Chavez

Site Mentor - UNM Los Alamos

Mr. Chavez has served as the President of the New Mexico Angels since 2008 and has been an active angel investor since 2003. Mr. Chavez is also the Managing Director of Phase One Ventures, a start-up fund out of Santa Fe, NM, and Managing Director of New Mexico Start-Up Factory I and II. Outside of the Angels, he is the President of Tafoya and Brainerd Partners LLC, a nationwide business development-consulting firm. Prior to his work in consulting, Mr. Chavez was appointed Cabinet Secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department by New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. During his six-year tenure as tax secretary he also served as the President of the Federation of Taxation Administrators for one year.


Stacy Sacco

Site Mentor - UNM Taos

Stacy teaches entrepreneurial studies at the Anderson School of Management, serves as the Director of the UNM Small Business Institute and is President of Sacco Connections, a management consulting firm. Stacy previously held senior marketing management positions at several Fortune 500 companies in Orange County, Calif., for over 20 years, and locally, at the CNM Workforce Training Center, Kirtland Federal Credit Union and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. Stacy holds an MBA from Pepperdine University, a bachelor’s in marketing from the University of Arizona, and toured two years with the global leadership program Up With People.