Higher education is a space in which Latinas feel othered. There aren’t as many student peers as there are in high school, and the faculty doesn’t usually represent us. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, “Latinos only represent 4 percent of the total number of U.S. higher education faculty.”
That’s why it’s important to highlight the several Latinas who are shattering glass ceilings, making their mark, and representing Latinx cultures in higher education. These women are making waves while opening the path for many more Latinas in colleges and universities everywhere.
Dr. Mildred García
Dr. Mildred Garcia is the current President of the AASCU (American Association of State Colleges and Universities). According to the AASCU website, her work includes influencing “federal policy and regulations on behalf of member colleges and universities” and “developing collaborative partnerships and initiatives that enhance public higher education.” She is the first Latina to lead any of the “six predominantly based higher education associations in Washington, D.C.” Other firsts for Garcia were becoming the “first system-wide president of Berkeley College, as well as the first Latina president of a CSU campus (Dominguez Hills, and later Fullerton).
Jennifer L. Rosato Perea
We are seeing more and more Latinas entering the law field, and seeing another Latina at the top of her game is undoubtedly an inspiration. Jennifer L. Rosato Perea is the current Dean and Professor of Law at DePaul University, where she has served for 13 years. Before that, Jennifer was dean of Northern Illinois University College of Law. Her work has earned Rosato Perea the Aguila Award, “the highest honor bestowed by the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois.”
Sarita E. Brown
Sarita E. Brown, the former Executive Director of the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans (under President Bill Clinton), co-founded Excelencia in Education. She also serves as its president. The non-profit organization aids Latinxs in higher education by “linking research, policy, and practice.” Part of Sarita’s work is expanding Presidents for Latino Student Success, helping put the focus and the effort on Latinx students and their college experience. She also is on the Advisory Council of the Center for First-generation Student Success, has received the Medal of Service from Teachers College, Columbia University (among other honors), and has an honorary doctorate from CSU Channel Islands (among other honorary doctorates).
Dominican ethnic studies scholar Lorgia García Peña is a tenured professor at Tufts University in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora. This was after headlines were made when she was denied tenure by Harvard. Tufts valued Lorgia and her achievements and accomplishments, including authoring The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation and Archives of Contradiction (which has won several awards — another book on the way) and teaching at the University of Georgia, and later Harvard for seven years.
Alejandra Ceja, the Executive Director of the Panasonic Foundation (a non-profit dedicated to empowering “ALL STUDENTS”), is another inspiring Latina who served as the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. The Chicana was also the Program Examiner for the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Senior Budget and Appropriations Advisor for the House Congressional Committee on Education and Labor, and Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of Education.