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Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim for The University of Texas Pan American, and a Board Member for the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, hands out more than 1,300 diplomas to graduates during two commencement ceremonies held on Saturday, December 13 at the McAllen Convention Center.

Photograph By JOSUE ESPARZA

The American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education recently selected Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim of The University of Texas Pan American, to receive the prestigious Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr. Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award. The award is given to an outstanding administrator in the field of higher education who has demonstrated excellence in the profession. It is named after Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr., a research professor at Arizona State University regarded as a national leader, mentor and champion in higher education. Rodríguez also serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council. Rodríguez, who picked up the award at the annual AAHHE conference in March in Dallas, was nominated by several UTPA faculty members and other distinguished faculty nationwide. In her nomination, Dr. Marie Mora, economics professor and Vice Provost Fellow for Faculty Affairs at UTPA, said Rodríguez inspired her to start pursuing an administrative career. “Seeing how active President Rodríguez continues to be in research and in his profession, and seeing how much of a positive difference he has made since coming here (to UTPA), has made me realize how much of a difference one person can make,” she said. “We really do need more passionate and effective leaders like President Rodríguez who can excite and inspire others.” Nominator Dr. Fernando I. Rivera, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Florida, once worked under Rodríguez as an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Applied Social Research, which Rodríguez headed at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. In his nomination letter, Rivera cited Rodríguez’ mentorship to him as a professor and Director of the American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program. “My experience is not unique, he has touched countless lives with his leadership and care for others. The thing about President Rodríguez is that everything he touches he makes it better, better students, programs and a better university experience,” Rivera said. Rodríguez said he was honored and humbled to receive the award and expressed the need to continue to work with others to increase the voice, visibility and impact of Latinos and Latinas in higher education institutions across the country. “Much progress has been made, but we have a long road before us. The AAHHE and other similar organizations play a critical role in helping us diversity our colleges and universities. It is also critical for us, as Latino and Latina leaders, to promote and pursue excellence in everything we do,” Rodríguez said. His dedication to the future of students at UTPA and UTRGV was reflected in all of his encouraging comments to the December 2014 graduation class, telling the graduates, who were joined by thousands of family members and friends, that with their degrees, they have the power to make a difference but it will take hard work, perseverance, commitment and a desire to serve. “A college degree is one of the most valuable assets you will ever own. It can be a powerful tool to transform your life, to benefit your family and to empower you to help your community, wherever that may be,” Rodríguez said. “I hope that each of you will remember this ceremony as the beginning of a very important journey.”

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Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, EEDC Board Member and UTPA President Ad Interim, receives leadership award from American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education

By GAIL FAGAN

The American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education recently selected Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, President Ad Interim of The University of Texas-Pan American, to receive the prestigious Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr. Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award.

The award is given to an outstanding administrator in the field of higher education who has demonstrated excellence in the profession. It is named after Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr., a research professor at Arizona State University regarded as a national leader, mentor and champion in higher education.

Rodríguez became UTPA President Ad Interim in August 2014.

Prior to that, he had been UTPA’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs since January 2011.

Rodríguez also serves on the Board of Directors of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg Mayor and Edinburg City Council.

UT Pan American, along with The University of Texas at Brownsville and the Regional Academic Health Centers in Edinburg and Harlingen, are in the process of utilizing their assets and resources to create a new university, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which will include a full-fledged School of Medicine with campuses in Edinburg and Harlingen.

In September 2015, Rodríguez will become the founding Provost and Executive Vice president for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Rodríguez, who picked up the award at the annual AAHHE conference in March in Dallas, was nominated by several UTPA faculty members and other distinguished faculty nationwide.

In her nomination, Dr. Marie More, economics professor and Vice Provost Fellow for Faculty Affairs at UTPA, said Rodríguez inspired her to start pursuing an administrative career.

“Seeing how active President Rodríguez continues to be in research and in his profession, and seeing how much of a positive difference he has made since coming here (to UTPA), has made me realize how much of a difference one person can make,” she said. “We really do need more passionate and effective leaders like President Rodríguez who can excite and inspire others.”

Nominator Dr. Fernando I. Rivera, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Central Florida, once worked under Rodríguez as an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Applied Social Research, which Rodríguez headed at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

In his nomination letter, Rivera cited Rodríguez’ mentorship to him as a professor and Director of the American Sociological Association Minority Fellowship Program.

“My experience is not unique, he has touched countless lives with his leadership and care for others. The thing about President Rodríguez is that everything he touches he makes it better, better students, programs and a better university experience,” Rivera said.

Rodríguez also was Deputy Provost at the University of Delaware, where he directed the Disaster Research Center, the oldest and one of the leading social science disaster research centers in the world.

While at UTPA, he has started new programs and initiatives directed at sponsoring annual research conferences for undergraduates and providing more opportunities to enhance faculty development, scholarship and teaching.

Rodríguez is the principal investigator of a five-year, $3.1 million ADVANCE institutional transformation grant from the National Science Foundation, aimed at increasing the representation and advancement of women faculty, especially Latinas, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Under his leadership, the grant led to the establishment of the ADVANCE Leadership Institute, ADVANCE Administrative Fellows Program and the Women’s Faculty Network at UTPA.

Rodríguez said he was honored and humbled to receive the award and expressed the need to continue to work with others to increase the voice, visibility and impact of Latinos and Latinas in higher education institutions across the country.

“Much progress has been made, but we have a long road before us. The AAHHE and other similar organizations play a critical role in helping us diversity our colleges and universities. It is also critical for us, as Latino and Latina leaders, to promote and pursue excellence in everything we do,” he said.

His dedication to the future of students at UTPA and UTRGV was reflected in all of his encouraging comments to the December 2014 graduation class, telling the graduates, who were joined by thousands of family members and friends, that with their degrees, they have the power to make a difference but it will take hard work, perseverance, commitment and a desire to serve.

“A college degree is one of the most valuable assets you will ever own. It can be a powerful tool to transform your life, to benefit your family and to empower you to help your community, wherever that may be,” Rodríguez said. “I hope that each of you will remember this ceremony as the beginning of a very important journey.”

ABOUT AAHHE

In its ninth year, AAHHE is a national, nonprofit and cross-disciplinary higher education organization primarily focused on the need to develop Latino/a faculty and senior administrators, as well as serving as a leading research and advocacy group for Hispanic higher education issues.

AAHHE upholds the beliefs that higher education should address the needs of Hispanics and can be more effective in meeting the needs of a changing U.S. demography.

Further, Hispanic faculty in tenure-track positions represent about four percent of the total faculty in colleges and universities. In addition, Hispanic college and university presidents represent approximately three percent of all presidents.

What’s more astonishing, these percentages for both faculty and presidents have not changed over the past ten years. Given the rapidly changing U.S. demography, with projections clearly showing Hispanics will constitute about thirty percent of the population within a few decades, there is a significant need to address replacement and pipeline issues in higher education.

Finally, the largest net gain in student enrollments in higher education over the next two decades will be Hispanic.

AAHHE is well positioned to work with institutions of higher education, foundations, business partners and other collaborative organizations that seek to address Hispanic pipeline issues in higher education.

In order to effect change in American higher education, AAHHE is committed to:

• Addressing societal issues as they pertain to the growing population.

• Convening public discourse focused forums to develop public policy reflecting the
changing demographics of our nation.

• Preparing more Hispanics to pursue a career in higher education as faculty,
administrators, and policy makers.

AAHHE has worked toward these goals in a variety of ways.

It created a Latino/a Graduate Fellows Program providing Hispanic doctoral studies students the opportunity to attend AAHHE’s national conference where they are introduced to Hispanic professors and administrators from across the nation and are provided guidance, instruction, and mentors to help them navigate the complexities of higher education.

Over two hundred seventy five doctoral students have participated in this program. AAHHE has also developed the Junior Faculty Fellows Program to provide sponsorship for junior faculty to attend the national conference; over 100 Faculty Fellows have been featured at the conference.

The Tomás Rivera Lecture is a highlight of each national conference, drawing on some of the best known experts to speak to issues and concerns facing our nation and our institutions of higher education.

Lecturers of the past include Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, U.S. Secretary Henry Cisneros, Ron Takiki, Ann Reynolds, Tomás Arciniega, Piedad Robertson, Raul Yzaguirre, Charles Reed, Jack Scott, Jim Cummings, Luis Ubiñas, Michael Olivas, Rachel Moran, Francisco Cigarroa, and Jamie Merisotis.

To celebrate and recognize the work of Hispanics in higher education and national leaders, the AAHHE Awards Program was created to honor deserving individuals at a special luncheon each year at the national conference.

Through AAHHE’s leadership and strong relationships with equally committed organizations, two initiatives are continuing. Eight Latino/a Student Success Institutes have been presented at annual national conference by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and AAHHE. Noted scholars and practitioners present research, showcase programs that work, and discuss with participants how to implement retention programs.

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The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Richard García as President, Fred Palacios as Secretary-Treasurer, and Felipe García, Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, and Steven Edward Cruz, II. For more information on the EEDC and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://www.EdbgCityLimits.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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