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Advancing access to education, opportunity across Latino community earns Super Bowl honor

ASU Executive Vice President Maria Anguiano recognized with 2023 Community Empowerment Award

Portrait of ASU EVP Maria Anguiano
February 08, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2023 year in review.

Many students take a quick bus ride to school, but when Maria Anguiano was growing up in Mexico, she commuted across the U.S. border every day. As a child, it was ingrained in her that no opportunity was too far out of reach. Access to education was something she and her family worked hard for as eventual U.S. immigrants.

This tenacity carried over into her experiences as a first-generation college student at Claremont McKenna College, where she found a way to succeed in an environment that was not designed for students from backgrounds like hers. When she entered the workforce, Anguiano vowed to change the game for learners like her and her sister. In her role as executive vice president of ASU and head of ASU’s Learning Enterprise, she is living out this promise.

Instead of always asking students to come to us — we must find options to go to them,” she says.

Removing the burden of access from the learner is the constant premise driving her work.

Award-winning community impact

Woman holding award

Maria Anguiano holds her award after the Inca Kola awards luncheon.

On Feb. 8, Anguiano received the 2023 Community Empowerment Award, presented by Inca Kola in conjunction with the 2023 Super Bowl, recognizing her outstanding leadership in developing and implementing programming to increase educational access and equity for the Latino community. Anguiano was nominated by David P. López, president of the National Hispanic University.

Since 2020, Anguiano has led the ASU Learning Enterprise, which grew from a vision of advancing ASU’s charter commitments to increase economic and social mobility for underserved populations. By leveraging and mobilizing all of ASU’s educational assets, Learning Enterprise serves as the third arm of ASU, an umbrella of scalable technologies and learning programs that are within reach of everyone in the community. Learning Enterprise exists to foster and grow universal access to social and economic opportunity — at every stage of a person’s life. 

Localizing the best of a global research university

The award highlights Anguiano’s work launching ASU Local, a reimagined undergraduate experience that brings the best of ASU into communities where learners have roots, family and coaching support. Virtual coursework through ASU Online is coupled with in-person support and connections at ASU Local sites across the country. 

The program is particularly impactful for first-generation students and Pell grant recipients, who can work toward a bachelor’s degree from ASU without leaving their local communities. ASU Local is currently available for students in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and most recently launched an inaugural cohort in Yuma, Arizona, in spring 2022. 

Pew Research Center reports that Hispanic students constitute a growing share of postsecondary learners, making up one in five students enrolled at U.S. universities. However, just over 20% of Hispanics hold a college degree. ASU Local aims to address barriers impeding degree attainment, including affordability and transportation challenges, while supporting students at every step. With ASU’s designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Anguiano champions acceptance and inclusion, and believes that the designation signals to the Hispanic community that ASU is a place where they can belong and succeed.

“Away from my support networks for the first time, I experienced culture shock when I got to my college campus,” Anguiano said in her acceptance speech at the award ceremony. “I was navigating different challenges from my peers, and my institution really lacked the programming to bridge that distance.” 

Redesigning education models to expand access to opportunity

Anguiano believes that for education to transform lives, the learning must be fundamentally redesigned to meet learners where they are. With a growing team of ASU talent, she has worked to reimagine every aspect of how a research university can increase accessibility to educational opportunities for everyone in the community. 

Through its intentional approach to community building, ASU Local fosters a sense of belonging in students from day one. They are placed in cohorts, and success coaches — one for every 35 learners — provide another layer of accountability and support. Career training is embedded, with guidance on topics such as resume drafting and digital presence, while networking events and speaker series help learners build professional connections. Combined with the flexibility of online learning, ASU Local’s tools and resources are designed to help students persist academically and build the confidence to set and achieve goals. 

All I wanted was a job and I had no idea how to even start thinking about a career. So we embed career preparedness from day one — it’s not left to chance,” Anguiano says. “ASU Local focuses on helping students build connections within and outside of ASU, develop soft skills for future success and lay the foundation for the career path of their choice.”

Written by Samantha Becker and Courtney Giesinger

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