The “Gender + Diversity in 21st Century Higher Education” panel series culminated on May 3 with a talk by President Mildred García on “Gender and Diversity Leadership.” Introduced by Sue Needham, professor and chair of anthropology, the CSU system’s 11th female and first Latina campus president discussed the growth of women and persons of color in the academy, from faculty members to college and university presidents.
A scholar in the field of equity in higher education, García recently visited Oman and Jordan as one of seven university and community college presidents on a Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Programthat focused on higher education in the U.S. and the Arab world.
“Today, our higher education system is the most diverse in the world,” she said. “As I visited Jordan and Oman, [I learned that] they look at us still as the model for the world.”
The youngest daughter of a Puerto Rican family from New York, García underscored the personal aspects of becoming a college president, a career that she says “takes up your life 24/7.”
“There is no such thing as being on vacation,” she said. “Even if you’re away, you’re never away from your institution.”
García, who is the seventh president and the first female president of CSU Dominguez Hills, stated that has been fulfilled by serving as president of such a diverse institution.
“It is one of the most gratifying jobs I’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s about finding the right match to an institution where you can put your skills [to work with others]. We have a diverse student body, faculty and administrators, and we are in a community that needs education. The presidency does give you and opportunity to engage in what you are passionate about.
“My favorite day is graduation day,” she continued. “That’s when you see first-generation students and students from all walks of life getting that education that will lead them to change their lives and the lives of the generations after them. You have played a role in establishing policies and procedures to ensure that they would have a good academic environment. You are in a position to give voice to the groups that need it the most.”