Faculty Focus: Dr. Teresita Aguilar

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Our Lady of the Lake University has a long and rich history of attracting first generation students. In the fall, roughly 55 percent of incoming freshmen were the first in their families to attend college. It is no surprise, then, that the University also attracts faculty members and administrators who are first generation graduates themselves.

Dr. Teresita Aguilar arrived at OLLU in 2005 with a compelling first generation story. She grew up in Belton, one of 10 siblings, with no intention of pursuing a higher education. A friend of her family happened to be the financial aid director at Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton. The director called and asked why Teresita had no college plans.

The answer: She couldn’t afford it. The friend arranged for Teresita to attend Mary Hardin-Baylor on a full scholarship. She graduated with a B.A. in Recreation and a minor in Sociology, earned her master’s and PhD from the University of North Texas and became a role model for first generation students.

Seven years ago, Dr. Aguilar arrived from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque after serving as the Dean of the Graduate School to serve as Dean of the School of Professional Studies. Today, Dr. Aguilar serves as director of the Center for Mexican American Studies and Research (CMASR). In that role, she also facilitates campus events centered around Higher Education for a New America (HENA), a national initiative OLLU launched to improve the way schools reach, teach and graduate all of their students.

"My role with the center is to focus on the cultural piece of HENA, more specifically Mexican American culture, and to engage in and support research that is aligned with higher education issues, for example: Hispanic student retention and Hispanic student persistence" said Dr. Aguilar.

This semester the CMASR is working to define and refine staff development programs for cultural competence.

Dr. Aguilar is also working on the CMASR's annual conference. In its 9th year, the conference will take place on campus March 22-24. This year’s theme is “From Demography to Identity: Who We Are in America.”

"It’s more than a traditional research conference. It’s scholarly activities, creative activities -- art and film -- and community outreach. Our keynote speaker, Alejandro Portes, is coming from Princeton. He’s a scholar and demographer on immigration. He’s also a distinguished professor."

In addition to Dr. Portes, featured presenters include:

• Patricia Mejia - Program Director of National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders
• Maria Antonietta Berriozabal - Former San Antonio City Councilwoman who earned the distinction of being the first Mexican American woman on the city council of a major U.S. city
• Antonia Castaneda - author of "Women of Color and the Re-Writing of Western History"


Learn more on the Center's web page.