ASU recognizes educational leaders for National Hispanic Heritage Month

student holding up a pitchfork gesture with her hand covered in white paint

This month, ASU faculty, alumni and Valley leaders are being recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona. 

“The 2020 Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month honorees reflect decades of community advocacy and empowerment for so many students and families,” said Edmundo Hidalgo, vice president of outreach with Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU. “We are so proud to shine a light on their work this month and year-round. They truly embody the Sun Devil spirit and the power of education.”

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

2020 honorees: Faculty

The faculty awardee for this year is someone whose advocacy goes back decades and who has been dedicated to both forward-thinking scientific research and student success throughout his career.

Jose E. Náñez

Jose E. Náñez Sr. is a President’s Professor of psychology in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and executive director for community outreach and student services in the office of the senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services at Arizona State University. Náñez is also a professor in the interdisciplinary graduate program in neuroscience and professor of cognitive neuroscience in Barrett, The Honors College. Náñez conducts research in visual perceptual learning, neural plasticity and malleability, and cognition. He also studies cognitive processes in Spanish-English bilinguals. As an executive director, he creates and implements new strategies to enhance students’ academic achievement and university life acculturation, with a strong emphasis on Hispanic students, first-generation university going and low-socioeconomic-status students. He was a founder of the Summer Experience at West program, a unique college-prep program for ninth-12th graders at ASU’s West campus. Náñez earned his associate degree in liberal arts from Butte Community College, his BS and MA in psychology from California State University, Chico and his doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

2020 honorees: Alumni

The alumni honorees embody what it means to lift others up in a community. The Trujillo family overcame barriers to their own education before dedicating their talent and careers to helping others access education.

Gary L. Trujillo 

Gary L. Trujillo founded Southwest Harvard Group in 1990 and has served as the firm’s president and CEO since its inception. Trujillo began his career in investment banking as a financial analyst and later specialized in corporate and public finance. He served as the youngest school board member of the Phoenix Union High School District and was appointed the first chairperson of the Schools Facilities Board. Trujillo’s most treasured success is the creation of the Roosevelt Community Technology Center (RCTC) in the neighborhood where he was born and raised. The RCTC provides state-of-the-art technology, including free internet access, and is available free of charge to any visitor. In addition, he and his wife, Melissa, started the Be A Leader Foundation, which serves as an incubator to develop college-bound, focused and prepared students. The Trujillos have mentored numerous young adults and continue their quest to help others learn how to help themselves. His educational commitment and achievements have been recognized through the Man of the Year award from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Exemplary Leadership Award from Profiles in Success. He earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from ASU in 1983 and is also a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Melissa Trujillo

Melissa Trujillo is co-founder and executive director of the Be A Leader Foundation, which she and her husband, Gary, created in 2002. The foundation is a platform for young aspiring students and serves as an incubator to develop academic and leadership skills required of elementary and high school students to become college-bound, focused and prepared. Trujillo has been a steward of education throughout her life and started focusing on helping underprivileged youth with her husband in 1991. Born in New York City and raised there until she was a teenager, Trujillo moved to Phoenix in 1981 and began her uphill climb to achieving a college education. She knows firsthand what it’s like to pursue college with no outside help. After graduation, Trujillo held several senior finance management roles and later shifted to operating her own businesses, including a concert venue and airport concessions, in addition to building the Be A Leader Foundation. She graduated magna cum laude from ASU in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in finance.

2020 honorees: Community partners

Two leaders from College Success Arizona are being honored this year. College Success Arizona was founded in 2005. Its vision is to significantly increase the postsecondary attainment rate of Arizona students, especially for those who would otherwise be unable to attend or graduate.  

Richard Daniel

Richard Daniel is the executive vice president and COO of College Success Arizona, where he leads the organization’s strategic and operational planning and partnership development and ensures that all programmatic and administrative budgets align with organizational priorities. Daniel has more than 29 years of higher education experience and has devoted great attention in his career to providing access and opportunities for low-income, first-generation college students. Prior to his role at College Success Arizona, Daniel served for more than 20 years in senior leadership positions at public research universities and community colleges. Daniel also served in various administrative positions during his 15-year tenure at Arizona State University. He holds a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies, a master’s degree in higher education administration and a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Arizona State University.

Rich Nickel

Rich Nickel is the president and CEO of College Success Arizona, where he leads the organization in its mission to help more students gain access to and successfully attain a postsecondary degree. He is a community leader and advocate for increasing public awareness around the tremendous economic and social benefits of creating more degree earners in Arizona, especially for high-need, first-generation and minority students. Nickel has for decades worked in government, corporate and nonprofit organizations and is a member of numerous local and national collaborations. He also helps lead the community-owned state attainment initiative known as Achieve60AZ as a founding board member and recently helped launch a community effort to increase Arizona’s FAFSA completion rates using newly developed artificial intelligence powered technology, Ask Benji. Nickel and his family came to Arizona via Kentucky, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in telecommunication from the University of Kentucky.

Videos by Macy Kimpland, EOSS Marketing

Top photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

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