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Graeve Selected by HACU as Inaugural Leadership Fellow

Professor Olivia Graeve, an inaugural fellow of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' Presidential Leadership Academy.


  • Katherine Connor

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  • Katherine Connor

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University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering professor Olivia Graeve has been selected by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities as a fellow in its inaugural Presidential Leadership Academy. The program, also known as La Academia de Liderazgo, is designed to increase Hispanic representation in top leadership positions in higher education.

The Academy is a direct response to the declining percentage of Hispanic university presidents—from 4.5 percent in 2006 to 3.9 percent in 2016—despite increasing growth of Hispanic student enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities.

Graeve, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is one of 24 fellows from universities around the world who will participate in activities designed to prepare them for leadership roles in the full spectrum of institutions of higher learning, but with a focus on leadership positions within Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) and Emerging HSIs.

UC San Diego is an emerging HSI, as a public university serving a population of 20 percent full-time Latinx/Chicanx students. The university is close to accomplishing its goal of becoming a qualified HSI, which requires 25 percent of students be Latinx. In April, UC San Diego launched its Latinx/Chicanx Academic Excellence Initiative, a campus-wide program designed to reflect and serve California’s fastest growing demographic.

“UC San Diego is committed to attracting and supporting a diverse faculty, staff and student community,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K Khosla. “Professor Graeve has been a leader in research, education and outreach at UC San Diego, and I’m confident the skills she gains through the Academy will have far-reaching effects on our community for years to come.”

The one-year fellowship program includes three seminars, with the first taking place in October 2019 in conjunction with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ (HACU) 33rd Annual Conference. The second seminar will lead into HACU’s 25th Annual Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education in Washington, D.C., in April 2020. The third seminar will be held in late spring or early summer of 2020, with a focus on international collaborations.

More than a dozen nationally recognized current and emeriti presidents and senior-level administrators will serve on the faculty. Mentorship with a university president will be a key component of the program, as will the development of a special project designed to have an impact at the Fellow’s current institution.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to join this phenomenal cohort of Hispanic leaders as we work towards more diversity in higher education, particularly among university leadership” said Graeve.

In addition to conducting research on novel materials through her Xtreme Materials Laboratory, Graeve serves as faculty director of the IDEA Engineering Student Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering, creating programs to support students from underrepresented backgrounds in engineering through to graduation and beyond. She’s the founding director of the CaliBaja Center for Resilient Materials and Systems, a binational research center bringing scientists from the United States and Mexico together to develop materials able to withstand severe temperatures, pressures and other conditions. Graeve also founded the ENLACE binational summer research program at UC San Diego seven years ago to build a bridge between high school and college students on both sides of the border through science and technology, and in 2018 she co-authored a paper on Latino Engineering Faculty in the United States.

"The Presidential Leadership Academy, La Academia de Liderazgo, meets HACU's mission to champion Hispanic success in Hispanic higher education,'” said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores. "By preparing more Latinos/Latinas for leadership roles with a special focus on Hispanic-Serving Institutions, HACU and the Fellows who participate will have a profound impact on the students they serve and the institutions they lead.” 

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