Cal State Fullerton President Mildred García spoke on the importance of equity and inclusion on college and university campuses at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Millennium Leadership Initiative program in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
Under García’s leadership, the achievement gap at CSUF has been eliminated for transfer students and cut in half for first-time freshmen. The University is ranked first in California in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics and sixth in the nation in graduating students of color.
“For me and many higher education leaders of my generation, it is our duty to be on the front lines because we remember when there weren’t any people of color leading colleges and universities who could speak up for us,” she told the audience. “In the absence of role models who looked and sounded like us, we learned to seek out like-minded individuals who shared our dream to break higher education’s glass ceiling — not just fellow Latinos, but all people of color, women, and yes, Caucasians, who recognize their duty to leverage the power of their privilege on behalf of the increasingly diverse peoples of this country. We lifted each other up, invested in each other’s talents, and collaborated in ways that made it impossible for the old guard to deny the validity of our voice — even if it did come with a strong accent.”
A first-generation college graduate and the first Latina president in the largest system of senior higher education in the country, García serves on a variety of local and national boards, including the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the president’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
David Forgues, vice president for human resources, diversity and inclusion, and Anil Puri, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, were also in attendance.
“We need you to be the leaders that will continue to uphold the values of equity and social justice,” García said in conclusion. “We need you to be those senior leaders who want these positions for the right reason: because you care about each and every student we serve; because you want to create an environment where there are diverse faculty and staff caring and, yes, loving our students and reaching their own potential by doing so; because you want to serve the multiple communities that we serve in our cities and states…. that is the dream, and until (higher education) is accessible for all students, we will not betray them through silence; we will serve them with the power of our collective voice. I hope each and every one of you joins us in our quest for equity, social justice and democracy.”