Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education


Article excerpt

When Dr. Kathleen Waldron was a finalist in the selection process for president of William Paterson University five years ago, she did something unusual. Before her interview, she walked over to the student commons of this Wayne, New Jersey school and remained there for several hours observing student interactions. She was pleasantly surprised.

"I wanted to see what the dynamic among students was at this diverse public institution," Waldron said. She had been to other universities where students remained in their subgroups despite being a part of a multiethnic university but saw the opposite behavior at William Paterson. "I knew that they and the school embraced diversity. Students intermingled and interacted with each other in a way that I appreciated. I believe this is part of what makes public universities rich."

A Strong Focus on Latinos

Today, as president of William Paterson University (WP), an 11,500-student school, Waldron can be proud of having supported this legacy of diversity and for being at the helm of a school that now has officially become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).

"We were excited about this designation. We can now apply for federal grants we weren't able to apply for before. Most universities don't have this kind of mix," she said. "We have an additional responsibility as an HSI. When we knew that 25 percent of our campus would be Latino, we made sure we had counselors who could communicate to students and parents about financial aid and other matters. We also started translating letters to parents and financial aid information into both languages."

A Perfect Fit

Given her background and connection to Latino culture and history, Waldron seems a perfect fit for a HSI university. She obtained her Ph.D. in Latin American History at Indiana University in 1977. During her graduate studies, she traveled extensively to Venezuela for her dissertation research and spent up to five years there in addition to her time in Mexico and Colombia.

Although Waldron began her career in education as an assistant professor at Bowdoin College in Maine, she started pursuing a career in banking in 1981. At Chemical Bank, she worked on Argentinean portfolios. At Citibank, she served as president of Citibank International Florida, where she headed the Latin American Private Banking division until 1998.

"I worked with diverse colleagues at Citibank and was traveling a lot to Latin America. I also lived in Miami where everyone was Latino," she said. "My language ability helped me be accepted, and I also knew the history of my client's countries."

When Waldron returned to academia in 1998 as dean of the School of Business, Public Administration and Information Science at Long Island University, she brought with her three important sets of skills: strong management abilities, financial know-how and the capacity to work with diverse groups of people, especially Latinos. In 2004, she carried this expertise with her as president of Baruch College, a City University of New York (CUNY) school that was named the most ethnically-diverse campus in the nation by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review.

Waldron was also able to utilize her unique background at William Paterson University when she became president in 2010. …

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