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VP of Program Strategy José Santos Selected as One of 26 Fellows by The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities

Written by Molly Forman on Aug 20, 2020

Related content: Higher Education, Diversity And Inclusion, 2U HQ

While the number of Hispanic students enrolled in college has increased significantly over the past two decades—up by 1.7 million from 2006 to 2016, tripling the number of Hispanic students in college over the past 20 years—the percentage of Hispanic university presidents has steadily declined. Soon, if not already, one in five students will be Hispanic, but it’s unlikely they will see themselves represented in their university leadership. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ Leadership Academy, La Academia de Liderazgo, aims to change that trend by preparing the next generation of culturally diverse leaders for leadership positions at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Emerging HSIs.

Today, The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) announced its selection of 26 fellows for its second cohort of La Academia, including 2U’s Vice President of Program Strategy José Santos. While José was the only fellow selected not associated with an academic institution, he has spent the majority of his career dedicated to higher education policy, research, and teaching. His roles have included serving as founding executive director of the Latina/o Policy Research Initiative at The University of Arizona, faculty at UCLA and Pepperdine University, and vice president for higher education policy and practice at the Education Trust.

We sat down with José to learn more about his role at 2U and what he plans to accomplish as a HACU fellow. Read on for his story.

After years in academia, what inspired you to join 2U?

I was inspired by the company’s high touch approach to developing high-quality and robust online academic programs at scale. And, that I was going to play a critical role in ideating with faculty and academic leadership to structure such programs. I was also drawn to 2U’s approach in cultivating prospective partners and nurturing existing partner relationships over a sustained and long period of time. Moreover, I was really impressed by the company’s intentional and dogged approach to student success.

While at the Ed Trust and as a consultant, I spent much of my time impressing upon and showing university leaders how important it is to be intentional about student success practices to drive successful outcomes—particularly for low-income and marginalized students. The fact that we take such great pride and care in ensuring that students who matriculate through our partner programs actually graduate is a testament to having high-quality programs and a student success infrastructure that is intentionally designed to deliver successful outcomes.

What do you do in your current role as VP of Program Strategy?

I provide global executive leadership on the Program Strategy team, and I am responsible for new partner development in the areas of faculty engagement, program and curricular design, and staging program implementation. Much of my time is focused on developing and cultivating relationships with prospective university partners and driving the strategy on curricular approaches for online programs and digital experiences with our partners and prospective partner institutions to secure faculty buy-in.

I have worked on a number of different types of programs with several new and existing partnerships. Over the past year, I’ve been supporting the development of complex health-related programs, including St. John Fisher College’s Doctor in Pharmacy Program (launching this fall) and Rochester Institute of Technology’s Master in Architecture Program (launching next fall). Both were new academic disciplines (verticals) in 2U’s degree program portfolio.

What compelled you to apply for a HACU fellowship?

I was compelled to apply because I view this as a win-win-win opportunity for HACU, 2U, and myself. I believe that cultivating this network of existing and prior presidents, senior leadership, and peers at HSIs is key to ensuring that Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) are aware and have access to the high-quality and robust offerings across our product lines—degree programs, boot camps, and short courses. Just like it is important to cultivate relationships and partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), another type of MSI, I believe it is important to cultivate relationships and partner with HSIs. HSIs enroll more Black students than HBCUs and Asian and Native students compared to Tribal Colleges and Universities and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) across the country.

In addition, I was compelled to apply for the fellowship because, for some time, prior to joining 2U, I have felt the desire to answer the call for the need and to be part of the next generation of culturally diverse leaders for executive and senior-level positions in higher education. This fellowship is a unique opportunity to be mentored by current and former presidents at HSIs who identify and cultivate the next generation of prospective leaders.

What will you be doing as a HACU fellow?

I will participate in an array of leadership development activities that will not only prepare me for leadership roles in the full spectrum of institutions of higher learning but will especially sensitize and mold leadership positions within HSIs and Emerging HSIs.

In a nutshell, the three-week-long seminars will include:

  • Curriculum on the search process, leadership fundamentals, current critical issues, and international relations
  • Access to more than a dozen nationally recognized current and emeriti presidents and senior-level administrators with 100 plus years of combined experience served on the faculty
  • Mentorship with a university president
  • Development of a special project designed to have an impact at my current institution, 2U

What are you most looking forward to being able to accomplish as a HACU fellow?

I am most interested in engaging with and learning from current and emeriti presidents, senior leaders, and peers across the country. I am a unique participant as I am not currently at a university but have broad experience in university settings, public policy at the highest levels in Washington, DC, and an edtech firm that powers online education degree programs, boot camps, and short courses across the globe.

I believe that I have the opportunity to come up with something creative and innovative with respect to developing a special project designed to have an impact at 2U—with material implications for Latina/o/x students.

I look forward to exploring opportunities for 2U to increase its visibility across HACU member institutions and attract more Latinas/os/x to 2U as interns, employees, and students in 2U-powered programs.

Learn more about us.

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