Gary Francisco Keller Ph.D.

AAHHE: created in Arizona by Arizonans

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Founded in 2004, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) is a vibrant, constructive force for education and its relationships with the corporate, government, foundation, and other worlds. It figures to become the preeminent educational organization to serve Hispanics. At the 2009 annual meeting, it attracted the likes of Henry Cisneros, former U.S. Secretary of Housing, Aida Álvarez, former head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility, among others, all televised by KLRN, the San Antonio PBS station.

Among AAHHE’s founders, two stand out primus inter pares. Loui Olivas is professor emeritus of business at ASU and the mastermind of the long-running annual survey of Arizona business activity. As amply documented by the latest report, Datos 2009: Focus on Arizona’s Hispanic Market, presented by SRP and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, it becomes more thorough and valuable each year. Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr. was vice chancellor for student and educational development at the Maricopa Community Colleges between 1978 and 1999 and currently is a research professor of the Hispanic Research Center at ASU. Thus, a major national educational resource was nurtured in the Valley of the Sun.

By virtue of what circumstances has AAHHE attained such depth and relevancy in so few years? Philosopher Baruch Spinoza said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” No other organization was addressing the needs of Hispanics in higher education, nor recognizing Hispanic faculty and higher education leaders.

The AAHHE birthing is instructive. During its first lustrums, it was the Hispanic Caucus of the venerable American Association of Higher Education (AAHE), and when the mother graciously fell on her sword as her final purification rite, the infans noster emerged weaned and fully equipped.

A cautionary tale: Take not lightly the Hispanic force. The academic convention has been out of noblesse oblige to “accept” Hispanics as tokens. If they fill the till with memberships, maybe “upgrade” them to sideshows, even as their own original purposes may have gone awry.

AAHHE ( is a full-service provider. The dynamics that truly stand out include:

1) Networking. Hispanic-focused faculty across numerous disciplines can network and interact with each other in a way difficult, if not impossible, elsewhere;

2) Institutional support. Ever-increasing numbers of Hispanic presidents and senior administrators strongly support it. AAHHE has over 200 institutional memberships and is really succeeding in helping more Hispanics achieve senior-level positions;

3) Attention to STEM. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics get attention. Rice University Professor Ricardo Tapia participates, and he is the only Hispanic member of the National Academy of Sciences;

4) Recognizing achievements. AAHHE has solid award programs and its celebrated Tomás Rivera lecture program (named for the first Chicano CEO of a University of California campus) recognizes Hispanics.

5) Increasing the pipeline. The Latino/a graduate fellows program is awesome, with strategic guidance in completing a doctorate, job hunting, and interviewing and oral-presentation skills. It helps students write for academic journals, including publication partner The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is another partner with an outstanding dissertation competition and a student success institute;

6) Community colleges and the corporate sector. Last – not least – community colleges, the key to expanding the pipeline. They are a meaningful presence. Businesses are supporting AAHHE, financially and with speakers.

Again, I see the magisterial handiwork of founders de los Santos and Olivas!

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