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Top Academic Leaders From Across the Nation Will Meet in Miami to Discuss the Future of Higher Education for Hispanics

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Miami, March 5, 2008 - From California State University President Dr. Mildred Garcia to University of Texas, San Antonio President Dr. Ricardo Romo to Miami Dade College President Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, many of America’s most influential university leaders will be attending the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) conference on Building Pathways – Construyendo Caminos, Fulfilling Expectations from March 6 – 8, at the Hyatt Regency Miami. Miami Dade College will serve as the host.  A primary goal of this conference will be to discuss key issues that are affecting some Hispanics’ ability to get a higher education.

“Is the system failing Hispanics or are Hispanics failing to advance academically because of other factors?” says Dr. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College. “This is one of the many questions we hope to address at the upcoming AAHHE conference where some of the top thinkers in higher education will convene. We are honored and excited to host these leaders from across the country.”

AAHHE, the nation’s leading professional organization of Hispanics in higher education, is dedicated to improving higher education and enhancing Hispanic educational aspirations and outcomes. 

This national conference also marks a historic milestone for AAHHE; for the first time, AAHHEE will host a Hispanic college and university presidents’ panel.

Those in attendance on Thursday, March 6, will have the opportunity to listen to expected dynamic speakers including:

  • Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College
  • Mirta Ojito, Miami Dade College alumna and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Finding Mañana, A Memoir of a Cuban Exodus
  • Jamie Merisotis, president, Lumina Foundation, who will present the Tomas Rivera Lecture. The Tomas Rivera Lecture program is a highlight of the conference, drawing on experts to speak on issues and concerns facing our nation and our institutions of higher education.

On Friday, the Presidents’ panel will be “A Focus on Community Colleges.” The expected speakers will include:

  • Dr. Dolores Fernandez, president, Hostos Community College (New York)
  • Dr. Leonardo de la Garza, Chancellor, Tarrant County College District (Texas)
  • Dr. Roy Flores, chancellor, Pima Community College (Arizona)

In addition, on Friday, there will be a plenary session on ”Critical Transition for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Students: Two-year Colleges to Universities.” This panel will include experts in the field of education representing California and Texas.

On Saturday, March 8, the AAHHE is excited to host its first plenary session with a Hispanic presidents’ panel including:

  • Dr. Rita Cepeda, president, San Diego Mesa College
  • Dr. Marcelina Vélez de Santiago, president, Pontifica Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico
  • Dr. Max Castillo, president, University of Houston, Downtown Campus
  • Dr. Ricardo Fernandez, president, Lehman College (New York)
  • The panel facilitator will be Dr. Ricardo Romo, president, University of Texas, San Antonio

To celebrate and recognize the work of Hispanics in higher education and other national leaders, the AAHHE awards program will honor individuals at a special luncheon on Saturday. Awards will be given in the areas of Leadership in Higher Education, Research/Teaching in Higher Education, Service/Teaching in Higher Education, Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues in Higher Education, Fine or Performing Arts, and Literary Arts or Publications.

AAHHE welcomes the Saturday Awards Luncheon keynote speaker Dr. Elma Gonzalez, Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Notably, she is one of thirteen prestigious UCLA faculty members, who serve on the institution’s AGEP STEM Faculty Advisory Committee. This group is dedicated to diversifying higher education and providing leadership and guidance for programmatic activities.

AAHHE is pleased to recognize State Farm Insurance Companies®, PepsiCo, Nordstrom, ConAgra Foods®, Southwest Airlines®, The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, The College Board, Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, ETS, TG and Anheuser Busch for their unyielding commitment to higher education.

For more information on the conference or to register, please visit or call Dr. Olivas at 602-496-1150.

About AAHHE: The American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) is a national, educational, IRS-approved 501(c)3, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of higher education. AAHHE is an agent of change for improving education, thus enabling Hispanic students to fully participate in a diverse society.

AAHHE upholds two critical beliefs: 1) That higher education should address the needs of Hispanics, and 2) That institutions of higher education can be more effective in meeting the needs of a changing U.S. demography.

Rationale: Major demographic changes are affecting the American landscape. In particular, the Hispanic population constitutes the largest “minority” population. At the same time, Hispanics are still underrepresented in all segments of higher education, with only 2.8% of all full-time faculty and administrators being Hispanic.

For more information, go to:

Conference media contact: Aymee Ruiz, 786-897-7208 or

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611,, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949,, MDC media relations director

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