CNM Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Selected for Prestigious Fellowship and Named as a Principal Investigator for National Science Foundation Grant

Felecia Caton-Garcia was selected for this year’s prestigious Hispanic Association of College and Universities La Academia de Liderazgo/Leadership Academy and received a grant in partnership with UNM and other institutions focusing on Hispanic/Latinx enrollment and persistence in STEM programs
September 21, 2023

As CNM’s first Executive Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Felecia Caton-Garcia has an impressive and successful first year under her belt. Now, she’s gearing up for year two, during which she’ll also be a Hispanic Association of College and Universities (HACU) fellow and a principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. 

As a fellow in the HACU La Academia de Liderazgo/Leadership Academy, Felecia will participate in a variety of leadership development activities, receive mentorship from a university president or other senior administrator, and complete a special project that will directly impact CNM. She will also attend three in-person seminars around the country, with the last one taking place in Salamanca, Spain. 

For Felecia, these in-person sessions are what she is most looking forward to. 

“In New Mexico you can find many Hispanic/Latinx folks in leadership roles, but, nationally, that’s still unusual,” she explains. “This fellowship is a great opportunity to build community with other Latinx, Hispanic, and Chicano/a folks who are also deeply engaged in the world of higher education. Having these two communities of mine overlap is thrilling, and I always find such richness in my peers. I’m really looking forward to learning from them and bringing that back to CNM.”

Another important part of this fellowship is its focus on leadership in current and emerging Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI). CNM is a proud HSI, but Felecia knows there’s even more to do when it comes to helping Hispanic and Latinx students not just enroll, but persist in their educational journey. 

“Just like we are the exception in Hispanic and Latinx leadership in higher education, New Mexico institutions have a higher number of Hispanic students than most others around the country," she says. “But we have not always been intentional in how we engage with this population and ensure we are supporting them beyond enrollment. I’m interested to see what other institutions may be doing better and want to share some of the things that we do really well, too.”

Not long after she was chosen as a HACU fellow, Felecia also learned that she was named a principal investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in partnership with the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and several branches of the City University of New York. 

Over the course of the next five years, Felecia and representatives from the other institutions will support building a community of practice for faculty and staff to use intersectional data, including race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic indicators, to support student success in STEM fields. The community will then create a resource hub for HSIs across the country to explore practices that close gaps and serve students.

“What we’re seeing is Hispanic and Latinx students starting STEM programs, but not finishing them, and they often report a feeling like they don’t belong,” Felecia says. “Our hope is that over the next five years we can collect data and develop best practices that can be implemented at universities across the country to help close these student support gaps.”

Looking forward, Felecia is eager to see what these opportunities bring both to her and CNM.

“I think both of these things, especially the work we’re doing with the grant, have the chance to put CNM on the map in new ways,” she says. “We’re in the perfect position to think about different intersections in education at the national scale, and I can’t wait to get started.”