Dr. Rodolfo Rocha, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at The University of Texas-Pan American, was recently selected among 30 distinguished leaders for the Kellogg MSI Leadership Fellows Program.
The program, created by The Alliance for Equity in Higher Education is a groundbreaking initiative designed to train the next generation of presidents and other senior leaders at Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).
"I was honored to be selected, as there were only 10 Latinos throughout the country to be selected," Rocha said. "This means an opportunity to continue in my growth as a leader in the academy."
The class of 2005, which includes 10 Fellows each from the American Indian, Hispanic, and African-American communities, completed a week of orientation and seminars in Washington D.C. in early August.
The seminars served as an introduction to the needs of the academy in terms of minority representation at higher education levels.
Each Fellow is also matched with a mentor president from another MSI who will serve as a guide and resource to the Fellow over the course of the year, and beyond. Rocha's mentor is Dr. Alejandro Gonzalez, president of California State University at Sacramento.
"When searching for a mentor, I tried to make a fit between the type of university that they are in and the type of university that I would like to be in," Rocha said.
Three partner organizations which make up the Alliance include: the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC); the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU); and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).
These organizations represent more than 350 MSIs including tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and historically black colleges and universities, which educate one-third of all American Indian, Hispanic and African-American students in the United States.
"One of the things that I really enjoyed was getting to know the other 29 Fellows," Rocha said. "I came to realize that as underrepresented minorities in this country, we have a lot of similar problems. As we sat around the table and talked, we discussed our needs and they were very much comparable."
The Alliance, a first-of-its-kind national coalition of associations and institutions that serve students of color, launched this leadership initiative last year with the support of a four-year, $6 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Rocha hopes to learn more about higher-level administration, how to recruit more minorities into universities and how to make curriculum relevant to them.
"I would like to know more about how we can be more innovative in increasing the opportunities for Hispanic children to have access to and succeed in college, obtain a bachelor's degree, go on to graduate school, and improve the quality of education," Rocha said.
Fellowship organizers predict that by the end of this decade, at least half of the individuals who participate in the leadership training program will have served or will be serving as a president, provost or other high-level senior leaders at minority-serving colleges or universities.
"My goal is to move to a provost position or presidency, hopefully a presidency" Rocha said.
Rocha also became UTPA's first American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow in 1998, a program designed to train young faculty or junior administrators to become leaders in the academia, such as deans, provosts or presidents.
After his ACE fellowship, Rocha became a dean of the College of Arts and Humanities in 1999. Rocha then went on to complete the Harvard Institute for Management and Leadership in Education program in 2003, which is designed to help experienced administrators think strategically about their institution's academic change, deepen insights and broaden their repertoires of useful approaches to leadership.
Rocha said the best part about being dean is his ability to help students.
"I believe we have made some changes here that improve the quality of the education students receive in this college," Rocha said. "We have increased the retention rate for our students, and have brought in a number of initiatives to help them."