A national leader in higher education has been selected to speak at Ithaca College’s 124th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 19. Mildred García, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), will deliver the main address. She will also be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.
García is the first Latina to lead one of the six Washington, D.C.–based higher education associations. As AASCU president, she works to influence federal policy and regulations on behalf of member colleges, universities and systems. AASCU represents nearly 400 institutions, whose members share a learning and teaching–centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.
“Dr. García has been an inspiration to me, both throughout my career and in my personal life,” said Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado. “As a first-generation college student and Latina pioneer in higher education administration, she has done incredible, visible and highly successful work around creating inclusive environments for both learners and leaders, and ensuring full participation in academic and professional spaces for people who have been often underserved and overlooked. I am thrilled that she’s going to be with us for our Commencement this spring, and I look forward to joining our graduating seniors, their families, and our faculty and staff in hearing her tell her story.”
Prior to joining AASCU, García served as president of California State University, Fullerton, the third largest university in the state. The institution is now number one in California and second in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics, as well as sixth in the nation in graduating students of color. She was previously president of California State University, Dominguez Hills, becoming the first Latina president in the largest system of public higher education in the country.
García has also held senior-level administrative or academic positions at Berkeley College, Arizona State University, Montclair State University, Pennsylvania State University, Columbia University and the City University of New York.
“Her work has pioneered the way for many students in higher education, viewing college as a right, not a privilege,” said Senior Class President Ezeka Allen. “Her work ethic and drive to change the world is exactly the courage we need in this next chapter of our lives. I look forward to being able to hear about what kept her going through the difficult times, and how her background allows her to have a diverse perspective.”
A sought-after speaker at national and international conferences as well as an academic researcher, García contributed a chapter to “Latinx/a/os in Higher Education,” a book co-edited by Collado that explores the experience of Latinx/a/o students and professionals and the issues and conditions that influence their success.
Her honors include the American Council on Education’s Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award and Columbia University Distinguished Alumni Award. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the Secretary of Defense to serve on Air University’s Board of Visitors and the Secretary of Education to serve on the Committee on Measures of Student Success. She currently sits on a variety of local and national boards, including the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities and the Educational Testing Service (ETS).
García holds a Doctor of Education degree and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University; an M.A. in Business Education/Higher Education from New York University; a B.S. in Business Education from Baruch College, City University of New York; and an A.A.S. from New York City Community College.