Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Up and Running: Former AAHE Hispanic Caucus Strikes out on Its Own and Sets an Ambitious Agenda

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Up and Running: Former AAHE Hispanic Caucus Strikes out on Its Own and Sets an Ambitious Agenda

Article excerpt

SAN ANTONIO

"It was more than we could have ever imagined," says Dr. Loui Olivas, referring to the attendance and support that the newly formed American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) received at its first national meeting held in San Antonio earlier this month. "We had hoped to get up to 150 attendees. Not in our wildest imagination could we foresee over 300 registrants."

Olivas is the first president of AAHHE, the organization that until last year was a caucus of the now defunct American Association for Higher Education (AAHE). He says he heard his feelings echoed by many of the meeting's attendees, who ranged from college freshman to long-time advocates for Hispanic access to higher education.

But the success of the new organization's launch was not left to chance. He and Dr. Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr., AAHHE's vice president, guided the project from the beginning to ensure such an outcome.

"Last March at the AAHE conference it was clear that they were going under even though no formal announcement had been made," says de los Santos, a research professor in the Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University. "We could tell that AAHE was in trouble and that we needed to start thinking about the future of the Hispanic caucus." At that point, he and Olivas, the assistant vice president for academic affairs at ASU, realized that they had the perfect opportunity to get their organization off the ground.

"Our president, Michael Crow, is a very forward and entrepreneurial thinking leader. He not only gave us the space but also provided us with part-time graduate and administrative support. He shares our vision," Olivas says.

Crow has also pledged to support the organization over the next three to four years. And the organization hopes to have its own full-time staff and office space within that time frame.

The founders and organizers' ability to obtain corporate support from ConAgra, Anheuser-Busch and Southwest Airlines, among others, also made AAHHE's national meeting a reality. ConAgra and Anheuser-Busch have senior vice presidents on AAHHE's board, as does State Farm Insurance. And a number of higher education institutions offered sponsorship support, including the University of Texas-San Antonio, The University of Texas-Austin, Miami Dade College, Texas State University-San Marcos and Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

FINDING A NICHE

Despite a successful first conference, the organization has faced the question of whether another higher education association to address the needs of Hispanics is necessary. …

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