My Experience at a Leadership Conference

This past weekend, I was invited to go to the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU)’s 33rd Annual Conference in Chicago. I was able to go with one of the institution’s Vice President’s and two other Cal Lutheran students. HACU represents more than 470 colleges and universities within the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. HACU also led the effort in order for Congress to “formally recognize campuses with high Hispanic enrollment as federally designated HSIs and to begin targeting federal appropriations to those campuses,” although, HACU’s definition of HSIs and the federal definition of HSIs under Title V of the Higher Education Act are different.

The conference that I attended this past weekend, similar to their other conferences and events, provides a platform for advocacy and information. Their theme for the 2019 Annual Conference was “Championing Hispanic Higher Education Success: Meeting the Challenge of Prosperity and Equality.” This was a four-day conference, which incorporated student/employer networking, financial literacy, career connections, graduate school fair, and LinkedIn headshots. There were also four different sessions in which there were multiple concurrent sessions we were able to choose from.

The first session I went to was “Building Your Professional Brand: Interviewing & Excelling in the Workplace” by Kellogg’s. They provided us with real-life examples and did prep questions of what we may be asked. Another session I was able to attend was “The Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University – Giving Back to Your Latinx Community and the Graduate School Search. I found this to be more interesting because not only did it focus on public policy/administration, which is one of my main interests, but it gave a deeper sense of how you could give back to your community within the policy aspect. There was a guest speaker who was actually from Chicago and attended Loyola University there and then went to graduate school in Texas. Hearing her story was inspiring because I feel like it is one thing for students to learn about graduate schools and what they have to offer, but it’s more inspiring to hear a fellow student’s story and how they got to where they are now. It’s all about representation.

The most interesting session for me was “Where Are All the Latinas?,” which had to do with the lack of Latinas represented in higher education; such as Presidents, Vice Presidents, deans, tenured professors, and so on. They focused within California, but on the UC, Cal State, and community college systems. Within these three systems, we learned that for every 1 Latinx tenured faculty member, there are 282 Latinx undergraduates compared to 32 white undergraduate students per white tenured faculty. And the excuse that Latina women “aren’t qualified,” is nothing but an excuse. Between 2012-2016, more than 20,000 (14%) masters and doctorate degrees were awarded to Latinx students. During this same time, Latinx students earning advanced degrees increased from 12.5% to 15% of all advanced degrees earned.

Having the opportunity to go network and talk to other students at this leadership conference was definitely inspirational to me. It was also eye-opening to me to see the opportunities that other students have within their institutions and getting to share mine. Not only the conference but getting to explore and experience Chicago was a great experience as well. Not everyone gets to have such experiences, and having this opportunity definitely makes me feel thankful to have such opportunities.

                                                                   All Photos Courtesy of the Author