• April 24th, 2024
  • Wednesday, 07:28:43 PM

Regis University Celebrates First Latino President and HSI Status in 2023


Regis University was honored with a Proclamation by the Denver City Council for the University’s Hispanic Serving Institution status and the appointment of Regis’s appointment of their first lay and Latino president, President Salvador Aceves, Ed.D. (center); along with (left to right) Dr. Jake Bucher, Provost, Dr. Nicki Gonzales, professor of History and Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion; (right) Father Fernando Álvarez Lara, S.J.; Ms. Stephanie Morris, Vice President and CFO; and Dr. Senthil Kumar, Vice President of Enrollment. (Photo: Regis University)

 

By Chanel Ward

 

Since its founding in 1877, Regis University, the private Jesuit college located in the heart of Northwest Denver has been committed to serving higher learners and scholars. They are now taking that commitment even further by committing to the very community in which they enrich with the inauguration of their first Latino President, Dr. Salvador D. Aceves. Although new to the position of standing President, Dr. Aceves is not new to the university or their fundamentals and values. Dr. Aceves’ journey with Regis began in 2014 as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Now, 2023 has been a year that is proving to be much more kismet, than coincidence for the long-time Jesuit higher educator. Dr. Aceves and the longstanding Jesuit University, together have earned the Hispanic Serving Institute (HIS) Status back in March and now Regis is on track to celebrating its 147 years alongside the community that they have grown and adapted with.

 

El Semanario recently interviewed Dr. Aceves, read the discussion below.

 

El Semanario: First, let El Semanario congratulate you on becoming Regis’s first Latino President in the same year of achieving HSI Status.

 

Dr. Aceves: I have to say it has been a real blessing and you never know what God’s plan is, but let me just say, showing up and being present and embracing those gifts certainly are very much what guides me every morning. I have a colleague, a companion here that says, you know, it’s not a job, it’s a calling. And I could not agree more.

 

It has been quite the year for both you and Regis; Denver City Council’s Proclamation of Recognition is approaching, the university reached and received its HSI Status as well as your official inauguration, I believe, was on January 1st?

 

Dr. Aceves: That is correct. My term started here as president, January 1 and I have to say, it’s been at times a roller coaster, but a good one, in the sense that it really is a collaborative effort and one that I feel very fortunate to have such a great group of companions to journey along with me as we really reach out to and build out and work on what is our commitment to transformative education for our students, but also ensuring that there is a healthy and a vibrant community of both scholars and learners here at the University.

 

In just a few sentences, please, give us a little insight into who you are.

 

Dr. Aceves: Oh sure. Of course. So, I came to Regis in 2014, I have been involved and connected to Jesuit Catholic higher education for almost 40 years. I started my career at the University of San Francisco, where I was a student and continued on as an instructor and later as a professor. I also spent some time in the private industry; working at both Pricewaterhouse, as well as Citibank. I then joined the University of San Francisco where I was able to continue my career as an academic Dean, I continued on as vice Provost, before transitioning to another one of our Jesuit institutions in New York City, that’s Fordham University, and I stayed there until 2014 when I joined Regis University. And I have to say Colorado is now home and it’s been just a delight to have been part of this community and that as it continues to grow and develop and really for us to be a partner with both, our civic leaders, but also our broader community, our alumni, our friends and really develop a community that I have to say we all both are proud of and want to make sure that’s available for all of our residents as well.

 

In our mission statement, we talked a great deal about how do we make our world, a more just and humane world and I think that that is the ultimate goal and direction.

 

So, what is it that attracted you to Regis, which is a Jesuit school?

 

Dr. Aceves: Yes, yes. Well, as I mentioned, I’ve spent almost my entire academic career in Jesuit, higher education and to some degree what attracted me to Regis is when I was at the University of San Francisco, I met Father John Fitzgibbons, our earlier president here at the University and he had joined the university then as our Vice President and Dean if I recall correctly. Now, during which time we developed a shared interest in both planning and finances and so we became good friends and I think that that’s an important marker, because it really is out of that friendship that we then talked about the opportunity of you know, one day hopefully being able to work together. He went on to—before coming to Regis – he went on to Marquette University. I left to USF to join Fordham University, but we continued our friendship and our conversation and so shortly after becoming president, this is John becoming president here at Regis, he called me up and he said, “you know, my CFO just announced his retirement and would you be interested in applying for that job?” The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, right? And so yeah, I felt that the religious community was very open, very embracing and I really connected well with his team and so that was my pathway to Regis and the university back in 2014.

 

Dr. Salvador D. Aceves is the first Latino to serve as President of Regis University. The Denver City Council announced a Proclamation honoring Dr. Aceves and Regis University for their HSI designation on August 7, 2023. (Photo: Regis University)

 

The Lord does work in mysterious ways, as you said.

 

Dr. Aceves: Yeah, you’re right. And we would say there is a plan and it really provided me with a great opportunity to not only get to know the university, but also see the impact and observe and be part of the impact that it has had now for 147 years. So, if you think about it; in 2027, Regis University will celebrate its 150th year. That’s a long history and so to be part of something that has had such a deep tradition in our community and be part of an institution that has really shaped so many lives and has really, I think, been a force for good. That to me was a real opportunity to be part of that and I have enjoyed it ever since.

 

 

So, just shy of a decade with Regis, you are now standing president their 28th president and not only that, you are the first-ever Latino president. What is the magic of Regis that keeps you?

 

Dr. Aceves: Why Regis? You know, in many ways, I’ve been reflecting on that question. I think it is such an important and really defining question. And so, as I look back and I think about what is special and what is it that Regis is best at? And I think that Regis is best, first and foremost, when we embrace what I call, ‘our collaborative culture.’ We are a very relational culture here at Regis. It’s about the personal care. It’s about the way that we live our mission. It’s about the way that we collaborate to address what are, you know, some very challenging issues and problems in our community at times and in our world. So, when we Embrace that collaborative culture, towards a common good, I find that we are at our best and that to me is a very, very attractive part of this community. You know, when we are in fact working together to improve the lives of our students, and our friends, and in our alumni and really make our community better and do that in teamwork; do it in the spirit of mutual respect, again, I think that’s part of the magic of this institution. You know, in our mission statement, we talked a great deal about how do we make our world, a more just and humane world and I think that that is the ultimate goal and direction. So, Regis, when it is embracing its relational culture, when it’s acting in ways that promote the common good, and we’re able to do it so that we can, in fact,

 

create a world that is more just and humane. That’s the magic that I think is not only important, but is ultimately what gets me excited about getting here every morning and continuing to take on the challenges of the world. It’s not just about a job, it’s really about the calling.

 

 

Denver City Council officially recognized Regis’s HSI Status, on August, 7. Could you tell us more about that?

 

Dr. Aceves: So, Regis has received its designation on March 30th of this year by the federal government that we, in fact, were recognized now as an Hispanic serving institution (HSI), and you’re right, on Monday [August 7], I’m deeply grateful to City Council and our city leaders who really have been remarkably supportive and just reached out. I’ve been so privileged to have them stop by and have a conversation about how do we work together, to then let us know that we are going to be recognized on Monday [August 7] through a proclamation.

 

 

What is it that you, as president, plan on doing to maintain the HSI status? But not only maintain it, but to increase it and what will you do to prevent from losing it, as we’ve seen with other universities?

 

Dr. Aceves: Yes, I think it’s a very important question and I appreciate you asking that. I think first and foremost it is really important that we think about the fact that we, as an institution are committed to reflecting the community we serve and we know that in our community, there is not only a current but a growing presence of Latinx families that are part of Colorado, part of Denver Metro, part of our state. And so, we want to make sure that we are indeed a welcoming place for all students. But as this group of students continues to represent a growing part of our community that we are indeed welcoming them to our institution. So, I think that’s an important overarching goal. We want to be able to reflect the community that we serve. The second piece and when we talk about serving for us, we, Regis, are a serving institution. We’re not just an enrolling institution. So, the way that I believe we are going to both attract and retain our Latinx students is in the way that we serve them best. So we want to make sure that when they come here that they bring in their gifts are going to bring in their talents and we want them to take their culture and use it as a way of enhancing and amplifying in transformative education, because it’s that connection and it’s ensuring that our expectation as they come here, they graduate and then they go out into our community and serve our community and make it as I said, a better more just and humane place. And so to me, that’s the way that we feel that we can best sustain, sort of this ongoing relationship, because I think we want our students to be able to see this as a pathway towards a life of both; value, as well as becoming a force for good. And so that serving component for me is really at the anchor. It’s not just simply adding more students that happen to fit a particular demographic, or a particular profile. I would say the last piece that I would add is we are very much aligning our Hispanic serving institution responsibilities to our mission and our priorities. So how do we historically advocate for populations of students who have historically been excluded? We want to ensure that we are welcoming and so when students not only hear that, but experience that I think that they’re going to find our institution as a home. And then, how do we ensure that we are helping them and how can they help us continue to spread that word of, “this is an institution that cares about you and provides you with the type

 

of education that enables you to see where it is, that we can be best helpful to make our community better. I think that those are great ways that we can both attract and retain a student. So that to me, I think, is more a byproduct of us doing a great job of inclusion and so that’s what I’m expecting, that’s what I’m hoping and that is what I see as a recipe to ensure that we maintain our HSI status moving forward.

 

 

What is most important for you to change, to maintain and to highlight more of at Regis?

 

Dr. Aceves: I think, what is core fundamentalist as a Jesuit Catholic institution? We are grounded in our values and we are grounded in our mission. And that is really at the core of who we are. That is our identity. That is what is fundamentally reflective of our history. But also what it is that we commit to when it comes to delivering a transformative education. I think from that, we also have to realize that this is a dynamic institution. And by that, I mean that we are committed to faith and reason. We are committed to helping our students discover their faith, deepen their faith and helping them see the importance of faith in the way that they lead lives of purpose and meaning. And then I would say adaptive, in the sense that we are adaptive to a community that is continually evolving and so we want to be relevant. We want to be responsive; we want to be a trusted partner; we want to be a thoughtful partner as well. And I think that that is how we continue to be viewed as the place as a destination for the kind of education that I’d say we deliver a high-quality education that is indeed transformative and helps our students have meaningful lives. We are one of many important and relevant partners for the community we serve. You know, I would say what comes to mind is something that we in higher education are continually challenging; that is, how do we make our education accessible and affordable? We know that it’s very important that we have been an employer of choice for our faculty and staff.

 

And we want to make sure that we are appropriately compensating, you know, our faculty and our staff. We also balance that as a tuition dependent institution with our lead to continue to provide the type of pathway for our students and their families to be able to afford our education. And so, while I feel fortunate that we are able to afford significant aid to our students, we understand that it’s still a sacrifice and we understand the burden that it places on them. So how do we continue to make that public investment, that is so important and private investment in our institution, so that we can continue to welcome students with great skills and potential to come here and join our community of scholars and learners and be able to graduate from our school and as I said, lead lives of purpose and meaning.

 

 

Dr. Aceves will receive a formal installation as 28th president of Regis University at the Presidential Inauguration, Sept. 21-22. For more information, you can visit their website at www.Regis.edu.

 

 

Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.