First cohort completes Adams State master's in higher education administration & leadership


"Many issues transcend race and ethnicity. 'Minority' doesn't just refer to race," said Jonathan Macias '12, one of the first eleven students to complete Adams State's Master's in Higher Education Administration and Leadership (HEAL). They were among the 270 graduate students awarded degrees at spring commencement, May 12.

Jonathan Macias, of El Paso, Tex., is spending two weeks in June in Washington, D.C., as part of the 2012 E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program.

HEAL was created three years ago through a $280,928 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare leaders of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). This focus makes HEAL unique among graduate programs and helps create an advancement path for Hispanic professionals.

Conducted primarily online, the 36-credit program is targeted to entry and mid-level professionals at HSIs, according to Dr. Melissa L. Freeman, program director. An 18-credit certificate program is available to those who already hold master's degrees.

Hispanics comprise about 20 percent of America's college students, with 54 percent attending Hispanic Serving Institutions - a federal designation for colleges and universities with student enrollment that is least 25 percent Hispanic. Adams State was the first four-year institution in Colorado to be designated an HSI, with undergraduate Hispanic enrollment at 32 percent.

Recently promoted to grant administrator at the University of Texas, El Paso, Macias was named to the 2012 E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions National Program. As a fellow, he spent two weeks in June becoming oriented to all 63 sub-branches of the USDA.

"I'm looking forward to leveraging my degree, and gaining a different set of cultural perspectives outside of Texas," Macias said. "I've had a lot of positive experiences with HEAL. I've been accepted into a second family; we've developed a rapport that has turned into friendships. We can complain about our challenges and celebrate our accomplishments together."

Dr. Melissa Freeman stands proudly with the first graduates of Adams State's Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership. From left are Freeman, Andrea Benton-Maestas, Donna Griego, Heather DeLange, Jonathan Macias, Nicola Donoven, Stacy Righini, Aaron Miltenberger, Victor Salazar, and Stefanie Sarno-Sutrina.

"When HEAL began, I knew it was something I had to do," said Victor Salazar, who has worked Trinidad State Junior College - Valley Campus for 17 years. He now serves as a job placement counselor in student services. "It fit with my goals, and validated where I've been, the work I'm doing now, and where I'm going, perhaps in a different administrative role."

The program's flexibility was a draw for both Macias and Andrea Benton-Maestas, who is a senior analyst with Institutional Research and Assessment at Adams State.

"I've worked at Adams State for 16 years, and I didn't want to leave to get my master's degree. The HEAL program was an excellent fit and allowed me to accommodate my family and job," she said. "I learned a lot about collegiality and the role of IR campus wide. I am also incorporating what I've learned into other areas, like CASA (Cultural Awareness Student Achievement), and student retention, as well as teaching Latino leadership."

Another of the four Adams State staffers who completed HEAL is Donna Griego, a 25-year employee who is now program assistant in the office of Enrollment Management.

"The HEAL program had two main components: the opportunity to learn and gain experience as a leader at Adams State, and a stream of altruism," Griego said. "There is a sense of caring and developing others, a concern for the welfare of students for the sake of assisting them obtain their education and getting them on the right track on their own journey that leads to success.

"The HEAL program provides skills to assist students who may come from backgrounds where obstacles block their educational path. I'm very proud, humble, and thankful for the opportunity to participate in the program. Not just my individual achievement, but for our community in higher ed. We support one another."

By Julie Waechter