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ASU among leaders in service to Latino student success

Sun Devils have been selected for national roles in service to Latinos


Charter sign on ASU's Tempe campus

In recognition of Arizona State University’s longstanding commitment to an inclusive educational environment, Excelencia in Education has announced that ASU President Michael Crow has joined the network of Presidents for Latino Student Success.

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June 20, 2023

In recognition of Arizona State University’s longstanding commitment to an inclusive educational environment, Excelencia in Education, an organization based in Washington, D.C., announced that ASU President Michael Crow has joined the network of Presidents for Latino Student Success.

This national network is composed of presidents and chancellors that are committed to learning environments where Latino students can thrive. Through the network, Crow will collaborate with Excelencia to leverage collective expertise and resources, foster partnerships, and amplify efforts to improve student success on a national scale. 

Colleges and universities within the network represent only 4% of all institutions across the nation but enroll one in four of all Latino students in higher education and account for one in three of all Latino graduates. In comparison with all institutions, members of the network retain a faculty composed of Latinos that is twice as high while having a higher rate of retention for students that are more likely to receive Pell Grants and less likely to accept federal student loans.

Among those in Arizona, ASU currently enrolls the largest number of full-time Hispanic undergraduate students.

A subset of the network includes 30 institutions that have been recognized with the Seal of Excelencia, a prestigious, voluntary and comprehensive certification that ASU has received twice since the inception of the recognition. The seal recognized the university for its high level of commitment and efforts to serve Latino students, and is in addition to its designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

According to Sarita Brown, co-founder and president of Excelencia, the organization is honored to work with the presidents and chancellors who have accepted this challenge.

“Higher education leaders with trendsetting skills and vision are fundamental to our country’s strong recovery,” Brown said. “Those prepared to engage and intentionally serve Latino students, while serving all students, will lead the way.” 

Excelencia has expanded its suite of programs and initiatives with the addition of its Policy Fellows for Equity Innovation — distinguished scholars and academic leaders that share the organization’s commitment to Latino student success. In doing so, these leaders join an immersive experience where they may reassess and influence federal policy in four areas: college affordability, institutional capacity, retention and transfer, and workforce preparation.

Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of outreach and a member of the Hispanic-Serving Institution Advisory Council at ASU, was welcomed among the inaugural cohort of nine with a self-selected emphasis on workforce preparation. 

Group photo

Vanessa Ruiz (back row, fourth from the right) at California State University, Northridge, alongside Excelencia co-founder Deborah Santiago and colleagues in the inaugural cohort of Policy Fellows for Equity Innovation. Photo courtesy Vanessa Ruiz

“ASU’s participation in this space speaks to our multilevel approach to Latino student success. As the country faces a changing workforce, we have to both ensure that Latinos have access to postsecondary education and are along the way prepared to enter the workforce and succeed as competitive candidates,” Ruiz said. “I am humbled to be among leaders in academia from both public and private institutions as we advocate for solutions to these core issues.”

In her role as deputy vice president, Ruiz leads several teams that develop and implement partnerships with public, private and nonprofit organizations to advance the educational attainment and economic opportunity for historically underserved communities.

In April, Ruiz accepted the prestigious Education Partner of the Year award from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund on behalf of ASU. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, an organization that assists Hispanic students with information, resources and scholarships to navigate and complete college, has been a crucial partner to the university since 2015, when ASU began hosting several of the organization's programs, most notably College Camp, a free, bilingual event for sixth to 12th graders and their families to help them prepare, plan and pay for a college education.

In addition to the appointment of Ruiz, Mara Lopez, senior research program manager for the Center for Broadening Participation in STEM, has been selected to serve among the board of directors for the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators, a nonprofit supporting educators and practitioners across the nation as they seek to provide quality, relevant educational opportunities for historically underserved students. 

Group photo

Mara Lopez (front row, second from right) at the annual Best Practices Conference in San Francisco alongside fellow board directors for the Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Photo courtesy Mara Lopez

This role positions Lopez among 13 leaders from other Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the nation. Through regular programming, members share professional development opportunities, assist in the implementation of Title V funding and other capacity-building projects, and host an annual conference as a forum to disseminate best practices for improving educational outcomes. In addition, they act as a liaison between member institutions to produce more competitive grant applications to federal funding agencies. 

“I am deeply honored to be in this position as the alliance works to democratize best practices of service in higher education,” Lopez said. “To learn and contribute to greater outcomes for historically underserved students is an enriching experience.”

In her role at the university, Lopez develops and implements educational opportunities and experiential training in areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Her strategies aim to increase the Latino representation in these fields. Through her focus on equity in and beyond the classroom, Lopez hopes to create greater educational experiences for students at all levels and backgrounds.

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