Every Learner Everywhere Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, we observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. This year, we focus on the themes of prosperity, power, and progress, recognizing the significant strides of Hispanics in the economic, political, and social growth of the U.S. We invite you to join us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing stories that recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic American students and digital learning champions in higher education who are driving prosperity, power, and progress and inspiring others to achieve success.
My family came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico. They have a lengthy history of farming tobacco and working on railroads, but I am the first to attend and be on track to graduate from a four-year institution. Much of everything I know about college comes from the Latinx college community that I surrounded myself with when I first began my undergraduate journey.
This year, I was a contributing presenter for the 2023 Latinx Student Services and Outreach Office’s graduation ceremony honoring first-generation Latinx college students at my university. While I am not graduating this year, I have a deep sense of pride and appreciation for my community and I wanted to participate in some way to celebrate these accomplishments and thank them for the support they showed me.
When I first came to college, many of these graduating students took me under their wing. At the event, I was able to present them with a congratulatory plague and gift for their hard work and dedication to Latino student success, especially for what it meant to me. As I near the end of my undergraduate career, I do my best to emulate their wisdom and provide mentorship to students in similar situations that I was once in.
By hearing from keynote speakers, and seeing proud families walk in, many of whom their parents did not speak English or did not have a formal education themselves. I was surrounded by a huge sense of communal Latino pride. At one point our keynote speaker asked if we had any Mexicanas in the room to which I proudly raised my hand.
To me, Latino pride is most felt in spaces like this, where we can congregate and celebrate our achievements, lift each other up, and reflect on our journeys – which are not only personal to us, but to the growth and expansion of our communidad and why I am so proud to be Latina, not just during Latino Heritage Month but everyday of my life.
I am Rolando R. Garza. I am Hispanic! ¡Yo soy Hispano!
I was born and raised in South Texas in the city of Alice. I am a first-generation Hispanic-American student in my family to receive the highest degree attainable in higher education. I graduated in the Spring of 2020 from Nova Southeastern University with a doctorate of education from the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education & School of Criminal Justice in Instructional Technology and Distance Education. I had a Covid “Virtual” graduation; Nova did an impressive virtual ceremony to make their students feel part of a ceremony.
As part of my educational leadership journey, I am a digital learning champion advocating for all faculty and all our learners. I am the Director of the Center for Academic Technology in the Division of Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. My leadership extends beyond my institution; I am a past president of the Texas Digital Learning Association (TxDLA), past state chapter chair from the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), and currently serving on the Texas A&M System Council on Academic Technology & Innovative Education (CATIE) as the Taskforce Lead for Legislative and Equity Advisory Board member for Every Learner Everywhere.
My leadership is about paying it forward for the learners of tomorrow, being an administrative leader in higher education is not about a title but making a difference. Never forget where you came from and the opportunities of others who have paved your way. I am passionate about digital learning and being a transformational leader to inspire future champions to carve the way for future learners.
I am a recipient of the Goizueta Endowment Scholarship, an award I won in my senior year of high school that allowed me to attend Georgia State University. I was born and raised from the Southwest side of Chicago, and when I first moved from Chicago to Atlanta it meant a lot to me having support from the Goizueta Foundation knowing that I wasn’t taking this next step of my life alone. A wave of imposter syndrome and culture shock hit me at once when starting college while also navigating a new city during the pandemic, but having the support of my family and the Goizueta Foundation helped combat my imposter syndrome knowing that I was attending college for more than myself. To set myself up for success at Georgia State University, I knew I didn’t only need to be successful academically but also culturally and professionally by setting goals for myself.
I accomplished this by becoming involved with numerous organizations on campus I have been involved with such as the Latinx Student Services and Outreach Office (LASSO) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA). Through these organizations I have been able to make many friends on campus by volunteering and participating in community service events, cultural events, and professional development events. I am currently the President of ALPFA and am extremely grateful to be apart of this club because this has been a space on campus where we have been able to build a community for students, a space to empower the Latino community and where students are able to build their network and grow professionally while having the support of the ALPFA community.
One of my favorite annual events that LASSO hosts is the graduation for Goizueta Scholars and LASSO students in the spring. I have volunteered for two years in a row and have been very happy to be able to support my peers as they celebrate a huge milestone. In both ceremonies I was in charge of checking in graduates and their families, faculty, and our keynote speakers. I also handed out gifts during the ceremonies to congratulate our seniors in a very wholesome tradition. I am proud to celebrate my Latino heritage in events like this because in safe spaces we are able to honor and cherish each other’s journeys and latinidad. I am an ambassador of the Latino community, and as my journey continues t I will uplift others by sharing my story to encourage them to pursue their personal, cultural, collegiate, and professional endeavors.For more student perspectives download what our best college instructors do