Barriers to Leadership Development of Hispanics

in Higher Education


Jairo N. Fuertes and William E. Sedlacek


Research Report #4-91


This study was sponsored and partly conducted by the Counseling Center and the Office of Minority. Student Education at the University of Maryland at College Park.








Jairo N. Fuertes and William E. Sedlacek


Research Report #491




Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the country. They are projected to become the largest minority in the U.S. by the year 2015 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1989). Their growth in numbers has been evident in higher education. From 1976 to 1986 their enrollment increased by 63%, compared to 9% for the White population (U.S. Department of Education, 1988). Given the growth of Hispanics on college campuses, it is important that universities focus on the leadership development of Hispanics (Quevedo-Garcia, 1987).


Hispanics need to be developed as leaders for three basic reasons: social (Young, 1986), academic (Sedlacek, 1987), and developmental (Quevedo-Garcia, 1987). Social reasons refer to the need for Hispanic role models and leaders. Academic reasons are formulated from evidence that minorities who demonstrate leadership abilities are most likely to be retained in higher education (Tracey & Sedlacek, 1985). Developmental reasons are documented in research which suggests that campus involvement and activity in groups stimulates the emotional, social, and intellectual development of students (Astin, 1975).


However, there are barriers in higher education which impede Hispanic leadership development. One of these barriers is institutional racism. Three manifestations of institutional racism are identified and discussed: admissions; underrepresentation of Hispanic students, faculty, and staff in higher education; and lack of programming available directly to Hispanics. Encouraged assimilation and institutional ignorance of socialization patterns and values of Hispanics are also identified as barriers to the development of Hispanic leaders. Student affairs professionals interested in promoting leadership experiences for Hispanics are offered the following suggestions: become acquainted with literature on leadership development as well as literature on the experience of Hispanics in higher education (e.g. Fuertes, Sedlacek, & Westbrook, 1989); conduct an assessment of the specific needs of Hispanics on your campus; provide support to Hispanics interested in highlighting Latin culture (e.g. Hispanic Heritage Month); design a leadership development program that provides workshops on public speaking, assertiveness training, and time and conflict management; and teach students about the benefits of leadership experiences, and how to mobilize community resources.

During the decade of the 1980's, the numbers of Hispanics grew at five times the rate of the rest of the U.S. population (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1989). Their increase in numbers has been evident in higher education, especially during the ten year period from 1976-1986 (Evangelauf, 1988). Statistics show that in 1986, there were 624,000 Hispanic students enrolled in higher education, compared with 384,000 in 1976, a 63% increase in enrollment, compared with a 9% increase for White students during the same period (U.S. Department of Education, 1988). It is important to note that Hispanics are a heterogeneous group of people, representing 19 different countries, each different in culture and history (Quevedo- Garcia, 1987). Adding to their heterogeneity as a group is evidence which suggests that the attitudes and behaviors of Hispanic students in college become more in line with those of White students as they acculturate to U.S. culture (Fuertes, Sedlacek, & Westbrook, 1989).


The college campus has been identified as one appropriate place to begin the development of Hispanics (Guthrie & Miller, 1981; Hyman, 1980; Lassey & Sashkin, 1983). Through education and professional training, colleges and universities have contributed to the development of leaders in our society (Young, 1986). However, it is noted in the literature that women, Blacks, Hispanics, disabled people, and other minorities have not had equal access to quality training and education (Harth, 1984; Johnson, 1984). Given the extraordinary growth of Hispanics in



U.S. schools, it is imperative that colleges and universities focus on developing Hispanic leaders.


Sedlacek (1987) defines leadership as the ability of a person to organize and influence others. This paper contains a discussion of barriers in higher education to the development of Hispanic leaders, and concludes with interventions for student affairs professionals interested in developing Hispanic leaders in college. There appear to be three primary reasons why leadership development of Hispanics is important: social, academic, and developmental.


Social Reasons


Young (1986) explained that with a few exceptions, nontraditional groups have been excluded from prominent, high­level roles in industry, government, and education. The increase in numbersof nontraditional groups and their increased participation in the work force, she adds, requires that these groups receive more training and education at all levels of government and industry. Education and training will allow the U.S. to reap the benefits of its valuable human resources. Even though Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., they are also one of the poorest and least well educated (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1989). In order for Hispanics to become more effective leaders in the U.S., they will need quality



training and education in college.


Academic Reasons


Sedlacek and Brooks (1976) have identified leadership as an important variable predictive of a minority student's success in college. They have shown that minority students who score high on demonstrated leadership ability, as measured by the Non-Cognitive Questionnaire (NCQ), are better retained and have higher grade point averages than those minority students who are not active in school as leaders. Tracey and Sedlacek (1985, 1987) showed that high scores on leadership ability, along with scores on seven other non-cognitive variables, predicted the academic performance of Black students up to six years after matriculation. Astin (1975) concluded that students who are active in campus organizations are more likely to persist in college and graduate than those who are not active.


Developmental Reasons


By promoting leadership experiences among Hispanics, colleges may facilitate the personal and professional development of these students. For example, interpersonal contact may help Hispanics develop important skills, such as tolerance for diverging views and emotional maturity, areas Chickering (1969) identified as important in student development. Even though



Checkering's theory has not been validated with Hispanic populations, it seems reasonable to assume that Hispanics who are active on campus are more likely to develop than those who are not active. Quevedo-Garcia (1987) has identified assertiveness as one skill necessary for college success. However, assertiveness is often discouraged in Latin culture. Leadership development programs which emphasize asseriveness training and related skills (e.g. public speaking and how to conduct meetings) may increase student participation in campus life and eventual leadership experiences.


Barriers to the Development of Hispanic Leaders in College


Institutional Racism


Sedlacek (1988) defined institutional racism as a societal system or institution whose acts result in negative outcomes for members of a group or groups. Three manifestations of institutional racism in higher education which affect Hispanics will be discussed here: admissions procedures; underrepresentation of Hispanic students, faculty and staff in higher education; and lack of programming available directly to Hispanics.





Sedlacek (1989) has shown that the scores of racial minority students on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) are not indicative of how they will perform in college. The SAT was designed to predict the first-year grades of White students, with the assumption being that first-year grades predict the student's future academic performance. First-year grades of Hispanics are often not indicative of how these students will perform in college because of the particular adjustments they often have to make while attending college. Some of these adjustments include having to balance conflicting cultural values at home and school, having to combat racism, and having to work to support the family. The SAT identifies Hispanics with strong analytical, verbal, and mathematical skills, but it does not evaluate Hispanics on how well they will adjust to college.


On the other hand, measures such as the NCQ are more effective in selecting minority student applicants to college. The NCQ evaluates a student's development along noncognitive dimensions, such as their self-concept, their ability to combat racism, and previous leadership experiences, which are crucial to a minority student's ability to adjust to college. Arbona and Novy (1990) found that the best predictor of academic performance for Mexican-American students, as measured by the NCQ, was their commitment to obtain a college degree. Additionally, the NCQ has



been shown to predict the grades and retention of minority students up to six years after initial matriculation (Tracey & Sedlacek, 1987). The NCQ, used in conjunction with traditional methods of admissions, may help institutions select more fairly Hispanic students, and potential Hispanic leaders, for college.




Hispanics are underrepresented in higher education. Despite the fact that in 1987 Hispanics made up 7.9% of this country's population, they accounted for only 4.30 of the total college enrollment (Fields, 1987). The numbers of Hispanic faculty and staff are also very low. For example, as of 1988, the California State University System had no Hispanics among its 9 chancellors or 27 vice chancellors. In addition, it had only one Hispanic president among sixteen, and none among its 30 vice presidents (Valverde, 1988). Nationally, only 1.80 of all university professors and 1.60 of all administrators are Hispanic (Fields, 1987) .


Sedlacek (1987) has shown that minority students operate successfully in the U.S. educational system if they have a mentor or role model in their school. It is reasonable to assume that Hispanics will be more active in college, and aspire to leadership positions, if they have advocates modeling and promoting leadership in the educational system. Without Hispanic



faculty and staff on their campus, students are less likely to have mentors and role models. Livingston and Stewart (1987) suggested that in order to better retain and develop minority students, more minority role models and advocates are needed in higher education.


Lack of Direct Programming


Institutions frequently offer programming for all their ethnic groups by one "minority office", and expect the different groups (e.g Hispanics and African-Americans) to benefit from its services. Such programming is often focused on one minority group on campus and ignores the specific needs of other cultural groups. Fuertes et al. (1989) found that Hispanics at a predominantly White institution were not attracted by efforts aimed at serving them as "minorities", and wanted the institution to take more interest in their culture.


Leadership development programs that are geared for minority students should be tailored to meet the needs of members of specific groups. For example, Hispanics may shun away from a generic leadership development program that is offered to all students on campus, but they may be more motivated to attend such a program if the presenters are Hispanic, bilingual, and the focus of the program is on Hispanics. In other words, the emphasis on "Hispanicism" gives the program cultural relevance



with which the students connect and motivates them to attend. Minority student offices which are predominantly non-Hispanic should work with Hispanic faculty and staff on campus and the Hispanic community to enrich the quality of their programming to Hispanics.


Assimilation vs. Integration


Another barrier to Hispanic leadership development is the lack of visibility of Hispanic culture in some U.S. colleges. Invisibility of Hispanic culture in U.S. colleges promotes the assimilation and not the integration of Hispanic students into college. Assimilation into a culture occurs when members of a particular group are encouraged to practice norms and behaviors of a established culture and discouraged to practice norms and behaviors of their original culture. Salazar (1989) suggested that there are three types of Hispanics on campuses in the U.S.: Isolationists, Assimilationists, and Accomodationists. Salazar noted that the Assimilationists, who may attempt to fit in as Whites with Whites, may be the most difficult to retain, since they have trouble coping with the racism they encounter in school (e.g. denigration of their music, dress, accent, or food). Accomodationists on the other hand, may be the best retained, since their self-concept as Hispanics is positive. AccQmodationists may understand racism and know how to combat it, and may be able able to integrate themselves and function



effectively with Whites. Accomodationists may also be the most likely to be involved on campus as leaders.


Isolationists may also have problems with retention in school. Even though they may stay close to their communities off campus, they may not interact with the larger campus community. While leaving strong community ties is seen as a positive predictor of minority student success in school (Tracey & Sedlacek, 1985, 1987), an overemphasis on the student's community can prevent him/her from learning about the system and handling racism (Westbrook & Sedlacek, 1988) which has been discussed earlier as a barrier to the development of Hispanic leaders.


Integration of Hispanics as Hispanics into college can be facilitated by promoting Hispanic culture on campuses. Support units which promote Hispanic activities may help Hispanics feel accepted and respected on campus. Hispanics who see it feasible to promote their culture on campus may feel empowered, and become active in school. This activity is not only beneficial to the students, who gain leadership experience, but to the institution as well. The promotion of Hispanic culture on campus will enrich the university's environment.


Differences in Socialization


Assertiveness is often seen as rude and dishonorable in



Hispanic cultures. In Latin America, cooperation is emphasized more than competition. Quevedo-Garcia (1987) noted that success in U.S. colleges is based on the student's ability to engage in intellectual debate and discourse with students and professors. Hispanics not acculturated to this value in U.S. education will hesitate to engage in debate and discourse in classes, and possibly will hesitate to become active on campus. Campus orientations to Hispanic students and parents should clarify cultural norms on campus to students, such as the importance of campus involvement, leadership experiences, and actively seeking out academic help.


Student affairs professionals should initiate contact with students, and encourage their active participation in classes and in organizations. These professionals must accept cultural differences between Whites and Hispanics and explore possible differences in communication and leadership styles among Hispanics.




Student affairs professionals can promote the development of leadership among Hispanics. First, they should become acquainted with the experience of Hispanic students in college. There is now more literature on this subject (e.g. Fuertes et al., 1989; Quevedo-Garcia, 1987). Second, orientation programs should

promote student activity on campus. Third, support units should provide organizational and financial support to Hispanic students interested in highlighting their culture (e.g. an event during Hispanic Heritage Month). Fourth, support units should conduct an assessment of specific Hispanic student needs on campus. Finally, promote leadership programs which aim to develop Hispanics in the following areas:


a) Public speaking. b) Assertiveness training. c) Time and conflict management. d) How to conduct meetings. e) Benefits of leadership experiences. f) How to mobilize community resources.


These and other activities can help Hispanic students survive and indeed succeed in school without sacrificing their culture.





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