Western’s new associate provost for equity-centered initiatives champions systemic educational equity and inclusion

Contact: Emily Monacelli
A portrait of Dr. Cristobal Rodriguez

Dr. Cristóbal Rodríguez

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s new associate provost for equity-centered initiatives in academic affairs is a national leader in educational equity and a proponent of systemically advancing inclusion and justice for all. Dr. Cristóbal Rodríguez comes to Western from Arizona State University, where he served as associate dean of equity, inclusion and community engagement.  

“Dr. Rodríguez’s commitment to equity and inclusion is evident in his prolific work,” says Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “His expertise and dedication will play a pivotal role in propelling WMU’s vision for equity and inclusion, especially in faculty success and our enrollment and retention work.” 

In 2022, Rodríguez was recognized as a national leader with a prestigious appointment to the President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics. The commission advises the President on matters surrounding educational equity and economic opportunity for Hispanic/Latino communities through the Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. He spent the week of Sept. 12 in Phoenix at a meeting of the commission, where members supported several initiatives that would help Latina/o/x/é students in higher education, particularly involving financial aid, affordability and access that promote equity and inclusion. 

Rodríguez, who grew up in El Paso, Texas, as the child of hard-working immigrants, said his background, institutional knowledge of higher education systems and his own research expertise have given him the tools to help enhance the access and success of students, families and communities across the P-20 educational pipeline, particularly for Latina/o/x/é students. 

“What this means for WMU is understanding the importance of our enrollment and success efforts for our students and how it aligns to our strategic plan,” Rodríguez says. “That includes improving representation at WMU by how we recruit families, not just individuals, and how we use system processes to ensure their success.” 

Eleven percent of WMU’s enrolled students have a Latino background, but Latina/o/x/é students are the only race/ethnic group in the United States that have population growth, whereas other groups have declined or plateaued, Rodríguez says. Hispanic enrollment at postsecondary institutions in the United States increased from 1.5 million in 2000 to 3.8 million in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. 

“It’s not only an enrollment impetus for WMU but also a financial impetus as a public institution,” says Rodríguez.  

Rodríguez's work has been published in the Journal of Latinos and Education, Harvard Journal of African American Policy, Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, and Equity and Excellence in Education. He also co-edited the book "Latino Educational Leadership: Serving Latino Communities and Preparing Latinx Leaders Across the P-20 Pipeline." 

Throughout his career, Rodríguez has received numerous accolades, including the José A. Cárdenas School Finance Fellow and recognition by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. 

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