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. “Our fellows are engaging in community-based initiatives that empower the entire community and strengthen the pipeline.”

One of ENLACE’s first graduates, 38-year-old Michelle DeValdivielso, attempted to obtain her master’s degree a few years before joining the program, but as one of the few women of color enrolled in the senior administration program at National-Louis University, DeValdivielso felt isolated and dropped out. Joining ENLACE in 2001, DeValdivielso had a completely different experience.

“Our cohort immediately bonded. We all had similar experiences because we were all Hispanic. In the spirit of collaboration, we shared notes and studied together. If someone became discouraged, other fellows stepped in to encourage,” DeValdivielso says.

ENLACE fellows find the monthly daylong professional development seminars, which feature scholars and researchers from the Latino community, especially helpful. Individuals conducting research on higher education issues, working for community-based organizations or working in the ranks of the foundation world are invited to make presentations.

Columba Myra Gatan-Morales, a 2003 ENLACE graduate, says the professional development seminars were the program’s greatest benefit.

“Being a first-generation college student, you’re not really aware of the career opportunities within higher education,” says Gatan-Morales, 32, who is currently pursuing her doctorate in higher education administration at Illinois State University.

While some appreciate the professional development seminars, others value the community service component.

“We worked with students and parents in the community and were able to make positive contributions. My role was to provide guidance and mentoring for those interested in college but unaware of the opportunities available to them,” says Milagros Acosta, who is currently pursing a doctorate in education from DePaul University.

All agree, however, that the trip abroad is a main highlight.

“Having an international experience is crucial because we’re becoming more and more of a global society,” says Rivera. “We are preparing students for higher education leadership for a global society.”

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