HEAL program honored nationally for increasing Latino student success in college


Elected officials and higher education leaders from across the country joined Excelencia in Education at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel in Washington, D.C., Oct. 1 to honor Adams State University's Higher Education Administration & Leadership (HEAL) program as among America's top programs that increase academic opportunities and achievement for Latino students.

HEAL was one of 15 national finalists selected from among 165 nominees from 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for the 2013 Examples of Excelencia recognition. Conceived and run by Excelencia in Education, this is the only national initiative to systematically identify, recognize, and catalogue evidence-based programs that improve Latino college success. ASU's HEAL was one of six graduate-level programs selected as finalists, and the only graduate program in Colorado to be recognized at the event.

Lia Carpio (back row, fifth from right) at the Excelencia in Education celebration in Washington, where she accepted the award for Adams State University's master of arts in Higher Education Administration & Leadership (HEAL).

"By sharing our experiences, we hope to prompt educators and policymakers to challenge the current status of Latino achievement in higher education and inspire them to work to increase Latino student success," said Dr. Melissa Freeman, HEAL program director. Adams State's Lia Carpio, HEAL program Coordinator, accepted the award in Washington.

"This is an exceptional honor and award. The vision and work of our HEAL director Melissa Freeman, and program coordinator Lia Carpio is being recognized, along with everyone who contributed to the success of this program," said Dr. Mike Tomlin, chair of the School of Business. "Central to all of this is the improved college success and futures for our Latino community. These are achievements from which we all benefit."

HEAL was created four years ago through a $280,928 grant from the U.S. Department of Education Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) in its Special Focus Competition for Graduate Programs at Institutions of Higher Education Serving Hispanic Americans. HEAL's focus on preparing the next generation of leaders for the nation's Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) makes it unique among graduate programs and helps create an advancement path for Hispanic professionals.

"The evidence is clear that America cannot become the world leader in college degrees by 2020 or achieve the globally competitive workforce of the future without a tactical plan to address Latino college completion," Freeman noted. Hispanics comprise about 20 percent of America's college students, with 54 percent attending HSIs -- 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 now at 31 percent.

HEAL program director Dr. Melissa Freeman (left) with members of the program's 2013 graduating class.

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

To date, two cohorts have completed the HEAL master's program, with two more groups currently enrolled. Students in the program have compiled an impressive list of accomplishments:

  • Delivered 21 presentations at professional conferences
  • Received 6 awards/fellowships, including NASPA Region IV West, Graduate Rising Star, and Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program
  • Received 10-12 promotions/new positions
  • Have assumed new responsibilities as a direct result of their learning in the HEAL program.

Freeman said total enrollment in the program has been 62 percent minority, with an overall graduation rate of 81 percent, with Latinos/as making up 62 percent of graduates. HEAL also recently received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Scott Tipton.

Celebraciòn de Excelencia coincided with the release of the 2013 edition of "What Works for Latino Student Success in Higher Education," a compendium of all 22 recognized programs along with the evidence of their success. Through this annual process, Excelencia in Education continues to grow America's largest inventory of programs and strategies that education leaders, policymakers, and others tap into to accelerate degree completion among Latinos.

This is the eighth annual release of Examples of Excelencia. Excelencia in Education has systematically reviewed more than 500 programs to identify and recognize over 100 programs and departments that demonstrate with evidence that they effectively boost Latino enrollment, performance and graduation.

"As America's fastest growing minority, Latinos are a true asset for our country, and their educational success will be critical for the future economic success of all Americans," said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), chairman of the Education and Labor Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and member of the House Committee on Education and The Workforce. "By identifying and sharing these examples of how we can improve college success for Latinos, Excelencia in Education is helping ensure the future not only for the Latino community, but for the whole country."

"As one of this year's National Finalists, Adams State University is at the forefront of meeting the challenge of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students," said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education. "No longer should policymakers and institutional leaders ask how to improve college success for Latinos - we have the largest accumulation of proven examples and tested strategies that show them how. Today's question is do leaders have the will to put these practices into action."

"This compendium is a central component of the Examples of Excelencia initiative," said Deborah Santiago, vice president of Excelencia in Education and author of the publication. "By sharing what works, we hope to prompt educators and policymakers to challenge the current status of Latino achievement in higher education and inspire these decision makers to work to increase Latino student success."

Examples of Excelencia is the only national initiative to systematically identify and promote evidence-based programs and departments effectively boosting Latino enrollment, performance and graduation. The 2013 sponsors are ACT, Southwest Airlines, TG, USA Funds, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, EduK, Univision Communications, College Board, Inceptia and New Futuro. Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.