First Annual CUNY-Wide Latinas in Higher Education Conference Held at Bronx Community College

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On Friday, September 30, Bronx Community College (BCC) hosted the first CUNY-Wide Latinas in Higher Education Conference. The BCC Association for Latino Faculty and Staff in collaboration with Dr. Thomas A. Isekenegbe, President of BCC and WomXn UP! created the conference.

Latinas in higher education

The mission of this historic event was to celebrate and highlight the scholarship, service and contributions of Latinas faculty and staff. Among the issues that the conference addressed were programs that promote student success and create a culture of career mentoring along with health and wellness strategies for Latinas.

The conference was convened by Dr. Irene R. Delgado, VP for Student Success at BCC. She served as the mistress of ceremonies. She introduced BCC Provost Dr. Lester Sandrés-Rápalo, who said: “This is an amazing opportunity for BCC to exchange ideas with our colleagues at CUNY and other attendees.”

Dr. Delgado also acknowledged the work of Leidy Pichardo, Chairperson of BCC’s Association of Latino Faculty and Staff and Luisa Martich, Vice Chairperson of the Association, for their work in putting together the conference in fewer than four months.

The morning’s keynote speaker was Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, President of Hostos Community College. Dr. Cocco De Filippis has a distinguished career as an administrator and was previously the President of Naugatuck Community College and served as the Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs at Hostos Community College.

She recalled her own journey as a college administrator where she was at times the only Latina and the inequality experienced by Latinx female faculty members including the sheer lack of numbers and salary discrepancies. “I have seen what teachers can do. They can change lives,” she said.Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis

Dr. Cocco De Filippos noted: “Look around. Look at our salaries – women tend to gravitate toward community colleges and the majority of presidents in the nation are women. Yet they get paid about $100,000 less than men who teach at universities and senior colleges.”

The morning breakout sessions included programs that promote Latinx student success, beyond paving the way for Latina faculty in higher education, using social science tools in the basic social sciences and creating a culture of career mentoring to help students thrive, among others.

In the afternoon participants could choose from sessions that addressed remaking public spaces; Latinx Contemporary Public Art in NYC, a call for mentoring from the voices of Latina faculty and overcoming seasons of change, which was presented by Susana Rivera, Director of the College Now Program at BCC.

The closing keynote address was delivered by Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta, Author and BCC Professor in the English Department.

Dr. Acosta said: “I want you to think about what brought you to this path in higher education. Was it your desire for knowledge? Or a parent who encouraged you and your love of teaching or someone who inspired you and saw you for who you are? I am in awe of all of you. If someone had told me as a child that I would have the opportunity to address a room of Latina scholars and leaders I would have had an extremely hard time imagining it. All Latinas in higher education, particularly those at community colleges are making great strides.”

She added: “There is still work to be done as Latina staff and faculty are underrepresented. At CUNY 75% of students identify other than white. But only 22% of professors are Latinx. This means that many of our students may never encounter a professor who looks like them in their classroom. We need to amplify the work we have started today into a consistent collaboration that goes beyond New York City and extends across the country as a model of what needs to be done. My ask today is that we solidify this bond between Latinas at CUNY and work together to lift each other up to share our experiences. Despite our humble numbers, we have made a huge impact.”

The conference ended with a speech by Sierra Moncayo, SGA President at BCC. She expressed her thanks to all the participants for providing her with role models. Certificates of appreciation for all the presenters were given by Leidy Pichardo and Luisa Martich.

Leidy Pichardo said: “When we were looking for someone to lead this conference, we turned to Dr. Delgado. We would like to express our gratitude to her for her support and scholarship that contributed to the success of the conference.”

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