2003 Distinguished Alumni Dr. Antonio R. Flores, M.A. 1977, President and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), traveled to Michigan with his bachelor’s degrees in business administration from Universidad de Guadalajara and in elementary education from Centro Normal Regional, Mexico in the mid-seventies.
When he first came to Michigan, he was director of the Upward Bound program at Hope College in Holland. He characterizes himself as “very green” and says he didn’t know very much English and found the U.S. educational system challenging, though he was working in academia. The head counselor at Holland High School suggested to him that Western Michigan University had an excellent program in Counselor Education and Personnel (now Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology). He decided to try it to become more familiar with higher educational practices and counseling skills which he needed for his job working with needy youth. He found that the program, faculty and students were a tremendous help to him in developing his communication and counseling skills. He drove from Holland to Kalamazoo for every class, and completed his master’s degree while working full time for Upward Bound. He found that the skills and knowledge he was acquiring while at Western were applicable every day in his job, so he learned very quickly, improving his skills and his job performance daily. According to Dr. Flores, it was not the typical student experience, as he was working full time and commuting, but he got so much out of it that he felt it was very valuable.
Dr. Flores went on to earn his Ph.D. in higher education administration from University of Michigan and holds the prestigious position of President and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which represents more than 400 colleges and universities that are committed to Hispanic higher education success in the United States, Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain and Portugal. In 2012 he marked his 16th anniversary in this position, and is very highly regarded by his peers. The editors of Hispanic Engineer & Information Technology magazine chose him over hundreds of candidates in government, academia, and the corporate world as one of the “50 Most Important Hispanics in Business and Technology.” Hispanic Business Magazine named him one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States.” He has also received numerous awards for leadership and advocacy for higher education access, equity, and success for Hispanics, the nation’s youngest and fastest growing minority.
Dr. Flores has also chaired the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), which is a coalition of the most prominent Hispanic organizations promoting Hispanic leadership initiatives and the equitable representation of Hispanics in corporate America. Along with his many other accomplishments, he is also chair of the ¡Adelante! U.S. Education Leadership Fund. This organization offers leadership and professional career development training to top Hispanic college students. Another initiative of which Dr. Flores is a founding leader is the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education. This is the nation’s first unified voice for the college and career development needs of minority college students and the capacity building requirements of Minority-Serving Institutions.
Dr. Flores also serves on national government boards, including the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council, the State Department’s 100 Thousand Strong Initiative with China, the 100 Thousand Strong Initiative with Latin America and the Caribbean, and the US Intelligence Community Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion.
When I asked about his days here at Western Michigan University back in the 1970’s, I thought Dr. Flores would barely remember them. But he said, to the contrary, it was a seminal experience and a springboard for him to go on to earning his Ph.D. and to further success in his career. While he no longer has the opportunity to work with many students in his administrative position, he does travel to lots of conferences held by HACU and by other institutions where students are presenting their work, and he makes every effort to interact with students at those venues. HACU sponsors the largest internship program in the US, with up to 700 students annually, so that is another way he has contact with young people. His favorite part is attending commencements. He says, “Commencements inspire me the most; to see all those happy faces charged up to go out and conquer the world.”