Obama appoints Romo to White House Advisory Commission on Hispanic Education

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UTSA President Ricardo Romo

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(May 31, 2011)--Ricardo Romo, president of The University of Texas at San Antonio, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on a commission that will advise the president and U.S. Secretary of Education on ways to improve education for Hispanics. Romo traveled to Washington, D.C., May 26-27 for the commission's inaugural meeting and swearing in.

The President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics was created through an executive order signed by President Obama on Oct. 18, 2010, and is charged with "expanding educational opportunities, improving education outcomes and delivering a complete and competitive education for all Hispanics."

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics director Juan Sepulveda said the commission will chart ways to increase Hispanic educational attainment, which is important for the country's economy.

"The commission will identify ways to strengthen our country. Hispanic students have graduated at lower rates than the rest of the population for years, making America's progress impossible if they continue to lag behind," said Sepulveda. "Strengthening and improving educational excellence in this community isn't just a Hispanic problem. It's a challenge for our entire country."

"I am privileged to be appointed to this important commission," said Romo. "The growing Hispanic population in Texas is a preview of the diversity we will soon experience across the nation. It is critical that we prepare all our students to succeed -- in school, at their jobs and in life."

According to excerpts from the executive order to create the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Hispanics are the United States' largest and fastest-growing minority group. Fifty-two million Hispanics live in the United States including four million in Puerto Rico. Hispanics also are the largest minority group in U.S. schools. More than 11 million Hispanic students are enrolled in America's pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, comprising 22 percent of the nation's total pre-K through 12th grade student enrollment. However, only 12 percent of adult Hispanics have a bachelor's degree, and just 3 percent have completed graduate or professional degree programs.

The advisory commission will be responsible for:

  • developing, implementing and coordinating educational programs and initiatives at the Department of Education (DOE) and other agencies to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Hispanics of all ages;
  • increasing the participation of the Hispanic community and Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the DOE's programs and in education programs at other agencies;
  • engaging the philanthropic, business, nonprofit and education communities in a national dialogue regarding the mission and objectives of this order; and
  • establishing partnerships with public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit stakeholders to meet the mission and policy objectives of this order.

A nationally respected urban historian, Romo is the author of "East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio," now in its ninth printing. As president of UTSA, a Hispanic-serving institution, Romo oversees the operation of two academic campuses that educate more than 30,000 students as well as the Institute of Texan Cultures. The university, which is vying with six others in Texas to become a Tier One research institution, has experienced more than 50 percent growth in enrollment over the last 10 years. More than 60 percent of UTSA's students come from groups underrepresented in higher education.

In 2002, President Bush appointed Romo to the President's Board of Advisers on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In 2004, Romo was appointed as a U.S. representative to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and in 2008, he joined a 23-member commission to explore the potential of creating a national museum dedicated to American Latinos.

Currently, Romo serves on nearly two dozen boards at the local, state and national levels including the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, the American Council on Education, Comexus and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Other individuals appointed by President Obama to the commission include Eduardo J. Padron (chair) and Cesar Conde of Florida; Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., Sylvia Acevedo and JoAnn Gama of Texas; Darline P. Robles and Patricia Gandara of California; Alicia Abella and Marta Tienda of New Jersey; Luis R. Fraga of Washington; Maria Neira and Lisette Nieves of New York; Daniel Cardinali of Virginia; Manny Sanchez of Illinoius; and Alfredo J. Artiles of Arizona.