Institute with Puerto Rican Higher Education Leaders

Cultivating and Supporting Puerto Rican Colleges and Universities:
An ASHE Institute with Puerto Rican Higher Education Leaders
Presented by Ascendium, Lumina Foundation, & University of Denver

Cultivando y Apoyando Colegios y Universidades Puertorriqueñas:
En ASHE Instituto con Líderes Puertorriqueños de Educación Superior
Patrocinado por Ascendium, Lumina Foundation, y University of Denver





The project is being led by Project Chair Vanessa Sansone (UTSA), ASHE 2021 President D-L Stewart, and ASHE Executive Director Jason Guilbeau. 

About the Institute

This Institute will be a day-long program with invited college and university leaders across the Puerto Rican higher education landscape (public/UPR, private, technical) occurring prior to the 46th Annual Conference for the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).

In alignment with the theme of the 2021 ASHE Conference “Spanning and Unsettling the Borders of Higher Education,” we aim to encourage Institute attendees to consider the multiple ways that higher education crosses both designated and imagined borders in practice, policy, and scholarship. The outcomes of the Institute will be to: 

  • Span the borders of our knowledge about Puerto Rican higher education by learning from Puerto Rican higher education leaders. The Institute will be focused on cultivating and supporting higher education’s strength in Puerto Rico in two ways: 1) to best serve the most marginalized students in Puerto Rico and 2) to recognize Puerto Rican post-secondary education as hubs of learning and professional training in ways that honor Puerto Rico’s unique post-secondary education landscape and colonial positionality.
  • Unsettle the borders of higher education scholarship by contributing knowledge to significant questions in Puerto Rico. This Institute will provide a unique opportunity for participants to further dismantle the boundaries of higher education practice, policy, and scholarship with a goal of understanding and specifically focusing on local realities and successful practices of a U.S. territory that is often excluded in our research.
  • Span the borders of our networks by engaging with cross-topical and cross-generational research teams of ASHE members and​Puerto Rican higher education leaders. Informing the institute would be the research of three teams of ASHE members working with Puerto Rican institutional leaders to apply findings from empirical data to higher education practice and policy, attending to all sectors of Puerto Rican colleges and universities (PRCUs) noted above (e.g., public/UPR, private, technical). ASHE members would be learning from and with PRCU leaders instead of being in a position of authority. The institute, therefore, is the connection between the work of ASHE member scholars and the frontline knowledge and experiences of PRCU leaders. One of the outcomes of the institute would be a collection of visual notetaking artifacts that capture the rich discussions and learning that will happen at the institute.

Research Teams

T​he three teams of ASHE members and Puerto Rican higher education leaders would address various streams of student success and its intersections with institutional and commonwealth and federal policy. 

  1. [Student Success & Post-Traditional Students] What are the “baccalaureate origins stories” for adult learners, students in rural areas, and incarcerated students in Puerto Rico?

  2. [Student Success & STEM] As HSIs, how might institutions leverage the story of the strong contribution of PR higher ed to mainland STEM graduate programs and the high degree attainment for Latinx students?

  3. [Student Success & Funding] What financial supports do PRCUs need to achieve and further develop student success goals? 

The goal is to develop applications for culturally relevant and student-conscious strategies to facilitate expanded student success. Each team will work between August-December to understand the specific topic and its context in Puerto Rico and the current research and research gaps related to the topic. During the Institute itself, Ascendium Fellows will present their work to an audience of invited Puerto Rican higher education leaders for review and feedback. The final product from each team will be a six-page report, which will be compiled into a larger report, addressing: 

  • What is the context? 
  • What does the current research say and what are the gaps?
  • ​How do we span the borders of the current research? 

ASHE/Ascendium Fellows

Event Leadership
  • Vanessa A. Sansone (Institute Chair), University of Texas-San Antonio
  • Monica Hernandez (Institute Coordinator), University of Texas-San Antonio

Student Success & Post-Traditional Students

  • Nancy Acevedo (Team Lead), California State University, San Bernardino
  • Luz Burgos-Lopez (Team Coordinator), University of Connecticut
  • Julio Cammarota (Local Liaison), University of Arizona/University of Puerto Rico
  • Emily Labandera, Excelencia in Education
  • Melissa Abeyta, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Ty McNamee, Teachers College, Columbia University

Student Success & STEM

  • Erin Doran (Team Lead), Iowa State University
  • Raeshan Davis (Team Coordinator), Louisiana State University
  • Natasha I. De León Rodríguez (Local Liaison), Interamericana University
  • Lorainne Rodríguez Vargas, Azusa Pacific University, Georgia State University & University of Puerto Rico
  • Matthew Smith, Case Western Reserve University
  • Lara Perez-Felkner, Florida State University

Student Success & Funding

  • Nichole M Garcia (Team Lead), Rutgers University
  • Cassandra Arroyo (Team Coordinator), University of Michigan
  • Gabriele Haynes (Local Liaison), University of the Virgin Islands
  • Paul Rubin, University of Utah
  • Jeongeun Kim, Arizona State University
  • Blanca Elizabeth Vega, Montclair State University