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Sylvia Hurtado Receives Major Awards from AIR and the University of Pennsylvania

By Joanie Harmon
UCLA Professor of Education Sylvia Hurtado

Scholar of equity and inclusion is also the namesake of the Sylvia Hurtado University Faculty Award, given by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education.

UCLA Professor of Education Sylvia Hurtado is this year’s recipient of the Sidney Suslow Scholar Award, the top career award from the Association for Institutional Research (AIR). The award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of institutional research and advanced understanding of the profession including significant advancements to the field of institutional research and its theory, study, practice, application, tools, and/or models; represents original, meritorious, and/or creative contributions or applications; and is broadly recognized as being of high quality in its conceptual framework, its presentation and development of relevant ideas and practice, and its implications and applications for institutional research and related higher education policy and practice.

“I was surprised and humbly honored to be selected for the award,” says Hurtado. “I first got involved with the Association for Institutional Research when I was at the University of Michigan, as all the higher ed faculty there involved their students. I found it a great conference for new students to present research because each paper gets 45 minutes, and we also had the opportunity to have the paper peer-reviewed for the ‘best of conference’ issue featured in Research in Higher Education.  It was a great opportunity for them to see the research process from beginning to end. The audience was great. The role of institutional researchers is to handle all data needs for decision-making and report directly to the President or Provost of their institutions, so it was a good connection to maintain as Director of HERI when I came to UCLA. Further, several of my own doctoral students became institutional researchers, and I became involved in European AIR and international higher education as a result of participation in the organization.” 

In addition, Hurtado has recently been awarded the Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania. The award is named for Professor Zemsky, who is the chair of the Learning Alliance for Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania. The awardee is selected by educators who completed Penn’s higher education leadership program. Professor Hurtado had collaborated with Zemsky on work at the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement. 

In another honor, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education has named a faculty award for the professor. The Sylvia Hurtado University Faculty Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated excellence in both research and teaching and has provided significant contributions to their respective academic disciplines.  This year, the inaugural award was given to Gilberto Conchas, Ph.D., who was once a faculty member in the UCI School of Education and now serves in an endowed professorship at Pennsylvania State University. 

“I think it is kind of funny to have an award named after me,” says Professor Hurtado. “I looked online and saw the first recipient of the award—I was on Gil’s dissertation committee at Michigan.” 

A member of the National Academy of Education, Hurtado is a professor in the division of Higher Education and Organizational Change in the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. As a first-generation Latina student from San Antonio, Texas, she has made a lifelong study of the sociology of education. Influenced by her experiences, her scholarship focuses on student educational outcomes, campus racial climates, and equity and inclusion in higher education.

Professor Hurtado served as director of the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA for more than a decade and is past-president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. She served on the Board on Higher Education and Workforce of the National Research Council and was on study panels that produced several National Academy Press reports on STEM, student success, and mentoring. She ends a three-year term on Executive Board and Council of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) this year.

She has led several national research projects, including NIH-sponsored projects on the longitudinal assessment of students aspiring to STEM careers, and institutional strategies to broaden participation in STEM. Professor Hurtado’s current research includes case studies of departments that implement culturally aware mentoring among faculty (NIH U01) with the University of Wisconsin; university organizational change after the replication of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and another project with the NIH-funded Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA, a collaborative of the Geffen School of Medicine and Fielding School of Public Health, with UCLA Associate Professor of Education Kevin Eagan and SEIS Wasserman Dean Christina (Tina) Christie. 

Professor Hurtado achieved her Ph.D. at UCLA, her M.Ed. at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and her A.B. from Princeton University.

"The three prestigious awards, one actually named after her - speak to the tremendous impact of Dr. Hurtado’s work as a researcher, teacher, and mentor," says Dean Christie. "We all benefit from her outstanding contributions and are thrilled that she is being recognized for her achievements and excellence.”