Empowering Hispanic Scholars to Navigate the Academy

Article excerpt

A Northeastern Illinois University program seeks to fill the pipeline with Hispanic faculty, administrators.

In Spanish, the word "enlace" is defined as a mechanism that unites two or more things or elements together. At Northeastern Illinois University, the ENLACE fellowship program is linking Hispanic scholars with each other and the community-at-large.

The brainchild of Dr. Santos Rivera, senior executive director of affirmative action and institutional outreach initiative at NEIU, the program is designed to increase the number of Hispanic students enrolling in Illinois' graduate schools. In six years, ENLACE (ENgaging LAtino Communities for Education) has assisted 28 Hispanic students to earn master's degrees, with 10 more slated to graduate in December.

Riding the wave of success experienced by K-12 ENLACE programs launched in seven states in 1997 to increase the number of Hispanic students enrolling in college, Rivera and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, through a $1.5 million grant, launched the first and only ENLACE program designed for graduate students. The Illinois Board of Higher Education has provided a Higher Education Cooperative Grant to ENLACE to maintain the program.

The two-year graduate program at NEIU finances the graduate educational endeavors of 10 fellows. The fellowship combines traditional curriculum with special courses on higher education policy and pipeline reconstruction as well as monthly professional development days. While enrolled in the program, students are required to perform community service. Before receiving master's degrees in educational leadership or bilingual/bicultural studies, the fellows travel to study higher education systems in Latin America.

Addressing Low Representation

Despite 30 years of affirmative action, the faculty profile at the majority of American colleges and universities remains largely White. While first-time Hispanic enrollment in graduate schools increased 5 percent from 1996 to 2006, according to the Council of Graduate Schools, Hispanics still make up a small percentage of minority faculty. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Hispanics made up only 3.4 percent of full-time faculty positions at four-year, degree-granting institutions nationally in 2005.

"We're helping address the low representation of Latinos in graduate programs as well as the low representation of Latinos in higher education among the faculty ranks," says Rivera, director of the program. …