Interview with HACU CEO Dr. Antonio R. Flores

Dr. Antonio R. Flores is the president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). Established in December 1986 with 18 founding members, HACU is a national organization that represents more than 400 colleges and universities that collectively serve two-thirds of the more than 3 million Hispanic students in U.S. higher education across 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

College Services: What do you see as the barriers to inclusive leadership?
Dr. Antonio R. Flores: I think the dearth of diversity in leadership may reflect the inadequate diversity in association membership.

When you don’t have a critical mass of people from particular groups, there will seem to be less of an impetus for the few there to see themselves as prospective leaders because they see so few that look like them in the membership base. It takes a special effort from association leaders to reach out and help develop those few so that they can emerge as leaders.

College Services: How can associations create pathways to leadership for those underrepresented populations?
Dr. Flores: Associations can create leadership academies for diversity purposes that bring in individuals from underrepresented groups and provide them with a leadership development program. This could be fellowship and mentoring programs or a series of seminars or webinars.

Associations could also consider creating a timeline of diversity and inclusion, whereby junior members receive one-on-one mentoring on specific association issues, introducing them to leadership possibilities over time.

Then, as leaders emerge in a natural way and offer their services to the associations, you can bring them onto association governance committees or appoint them to task forces and commissions, providing opportunities for further learning in leadership development through this work as well as other experiences.

College Services: What can associations do to promote diversity 
on member campuses?
Dr. Flores: Associations can perform a needs assessment or inventory on the institutions they want to influence to find out what they are or are not doing vis-à-vis diversity and inclusion. This may provide opportunities for those that are doing well to mentor those that are behind the curve.

Of course, it’s always important to have a database of people from underrepresented populations who are looking for employment in positions related to the organizations. That could help institutions beef up their diversity and inclusion success.

NACAS members interact with companies that provide services to campus. It would be very helpful in promoting diversity to encourage those companies to provide internship opportunities for underrepresented populations. Those internships could help people develop expertise for positions related to campus facilities management, food service management, or whatever the business line is.

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