The American Association for Hispanics in Higher Education is striving to increase Hispanic involvement and success in higher education. The growing Hispanic population is underrepresented in many professions throughout the United States. AAHHE is committed to increasing awareness and providing Hispanics with the skills to become prominent scholars and strong leaders in their fields. As a 2015 AAH-HE Graduate Fellow, I had the special opportunity to travel to Frisco, Texas for the 10th Annual AAHHE National Conference, La Próxima Década: Investigar, Innovar, Impactar.
Mentoring is a fundamental part of the graduate fellow program. Each graduate fellow was paired with a faculty fellow to share experiences and allow for an exchange of ideas. AAHHE recognizes that mentoring is a critical part of the education pipeline and is important for overall success. AAHHE faculty fellows had similar research areas as the graduate fellows and lead various sessions providing insight and personal experiences of navigating higher education, which is an important aspect for first-generation Hispanic students. The mentorship also included various opportunities for engagement by setting designated times for dinners and social gatherings. Throughout the entire conference, there were also scheduled open platicás with graduate and faculty fellows.
The AAHHE conference also focused on promoting policy and how each person can make a difference. The policy memo workshop with Dr. Fernando Valle from Texas Tech University was helpful in framing how policy can positively impact access and student success in higher education. Another focus of the conference was social media and how important it is to stay relevant with social media posts. There are many avenues in which scholars can post articles and maintain a presence outside of the normal work environment.
Another fundamental aspect of the conference was the graduate fellows’ research symposium. Each fellow had the opportunity to present on research being conducted at respective universities. The symposium was a great experience and allowed for feedback from peers. In addition, the concurrent sessions were a highlight experience. I was amazed to learn about the different research initiatives being conducted across the United States and that many community colleges are working diligently with universities to create opportunities for underrepresented students.
Overall, the 2015 AAHHE conference was a significant success. The graduate and faculty fellows programs are a main focus and strength of AAHHE, and I was fortunate enough to be a selected fellow. Each platicá, workshop and group discussion prepared and motivated me to continue on with my journey in higher education.