September 6, 2022

Dr. Isabel O’Connor, San Diego Mesa College Vice President, Announced as a 2022-23 Fellow of HACU’s Leadership Academy/La Academia de Liderazgo

By Office of Communications

Hispanic Serving Institution

SAN ANTONIO – The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities is pleased to announce the 39 fellows who will be part of the fourth cohort of its Leadership Academy/La Academia de Liderazgo, which includes Dr. Isabel O’Connor, Vice President of Instruction at San Diego Mesa College. The program is designed to increase diverse representation in executive and senior-level positions in higher education. Fellows participate in an array of leadership development activities preparing them for leadership roles in the full spectrum of institutions of higher learning, with an emphasis on Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Emerging HSIs.


“Dr. O’Connor is a valued and essential part of the Mesa College community; her presence adds depth, breadth, innovation, and heart to our vision of becoming the leading college of equity and excellence,” stated Mesa College President Dr. Ashanti Hands. “The only thing that excites me more about the opportunity for Dr. O’Connor to engage in such a prestigious leadership academy with esteemed colleagues is that this cohort will also get to benefit from her equity-minded, student-centered, innovative contributions and mindset. Dr. O’Connor’s leadership is already impacting the success of our students and breathing life into our designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution. This experience will only elevate and expand her talent, wisdom, and capacity to lead transformational change.”


The one-year fellowship program includes webinars and three seminars, with an orientation webinar on September 21, 2022. The first seminar will be held in October 2022 in conjunction with HACU’s 36th Annual Conference. The second seminar will be held in Washington, D.C., in April 2023, at HACU’s National Capitol Forum. The third seminar will be an international seminar to be held in the spring or summer of 2023.


Dr. O’Connor has served as Mesa’s Vice President of Instruction since January 2019. She has led several of Mesa’s equity efforts related to the college’s designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, including securing a new Title III HSI STEM grant in 2021. Additionally, she has improved equity and access through curriculum review and development, pioneered professional development initiatives, such as the Curriculum Equity and Excellence Review Institute, and led the college's Mesa Pathways initiative which provides Mesa’s diverse student population with clear direction, strong support and well-developed roadmaps to achieving their educational, career, and life goals.  ​Dr. O'Connor serves on the CCCCIO Board and as a member of the San Diego Hispanic Scholarship Fund Advisory Council.

Hispanic Serving Institution

"I am humbled and deeply honored to have been selected as part of HACU's Academia de Liderazgo,” stated Dr. O’Connor.  "I look forward to the great opportunities for professional growth and development the Academia offers.  I am especially excited to learn and grow alongside other Hispanic colleagues from across the nation."


A native of Spain and the first one in her family to graduate from college, Dr. O'Connor earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Alicante before immigrating to the United States in 1986. After learning English at Los Angeles City College, she obtained a B.A. in European Studies at Loyola Marymount University, and a Ph.D. in medieval Spanish history at U.C.L.A.


The Leadership Academy faculty consists of current and former presidents, chancellors and senior administrators and brings over 100 years of combined experience in serving various sectors of higher education, including private/public universities, community colleges and faith-based institutions. Mentorship with a university president is a key component, as well as the development of a special project designed to have an impact at the Fellow’s current institution.


Special thanks to Carnegie Corporation of New York, Capital One and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for their support in providing fellowships to selected recipients:


The Fellows and their home institutions are:

Kathaleen Acosta, Ed.D., Dallas College

*Erika Allen, College of Southern Idaho

Amanda Corona, University of California, San Diego

Carlos Cruz, Ed.D., Dallas College

*Marlene De La Cruz, Ph.D., Viterbo University

Julie Dinger, Ph.D., Oklahoma Panhandle State University

Guillermo Escalante, D.Sc., California State University, San Bernadino

Maruth Figueroa, Ed.D., University of California, San Diego

Heidy Frías, M.D., Texas A&M University

*Sandra D. García, Ed.D., The University of Texas at San Antonio

Diana Garza, Ph.D., Boise State University

Ana María González, Universidad Ana G. Méndez

Ángel González, Ph.D., New Jersey City University

**Yhovana Gordon, Ed.D., D.N.P., Florida International University

*Grace Gutiérrez, Ph.D., University of the Incarnate Word

Juan B. Gutiérrez, Ph.D., The University of Texas at San Antonio

Andrea I. Guzmán, Ed.D., University of Central Florida

Melanie Hernandez, Ph.D., California State University, Fresno

*Elena Hernández Burke, Alverno College

*Rocío D. Hernández, Ed.D. Ventura College

*Laura M. Hunt, DBA, University of the Southwest

Joan Jaimes, Ph.D., San Antonio College

Tatyana Karaman, Ph.D., Western Oregon University

Heather C. Macías, Ph.D., California State University, Long Beach

*Sara A. Mata, Ph.D., Newman University

Fred Millán, Ph.D., State University of New York at Old Westbury

***Néstor Montilla, Ph.D., Lehman College of The City University of New York

**Alesandra C. Morales-Vélez, Ph.D., Universidad de Puerto, Mayagüez

Gilberto Mosqueda, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego

Marisa Moyet-Lugo, Malcolm X Community College

**Jonathan Muñoz Barreto, Ph.D., Universidad de Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

Isabel de los Ángeles O'Connor, Ph.D., San Diego Mesa College

*Brittany R. Padilla, The University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus

María E. Pérez y González, Ph.D., Brooklyn College, CUNY

*Yoel Rodríguez, Ph.D., Hostos Community College, CUNY

Vanessa Tejada, Ed.D., California Institute of Technology

**Janie Valdés, Ed.D., Florida International University

Steven T. Wuhs, Ph.D., Oregon State University

René Zenteno, Ph.D., The University of Texas at San Antonio


*Carnegie Fellowship recipient.

**Capital One Fellowship recipient.

*** American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Fellowship recipient.


More information about the HACU Leadership Academy/La Academia de Liderazgo is available at


About HACU

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, founded in 1986, represents more than 500 colleges and universities in the United States, Latin America, Spain and school districts throughout the U.S. HACU is the only national association representing existing and emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The Association’s headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, with regional offices in Washington, D.C and Sacramento, California.


This news publication was made possible (in part) by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New  York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.


About San Diego Mesa College

San Diego Mesa College is a fully accredited, comprehensive community college committed to access, success, and equity. We honor those commitments as a diverse community of students, faculty, professional staff, and administrators who collaborate to foster scholarship, leadership, innovation, and excellence in an inclusive learning environment. By promoting student learning and achievement that leads to degrees and certificates, transfer, workforce training, and lifelong learning, we empower our students to reach their educational goals and shape their future.  Among the largest community colleges in California, Mesa College serves 30,000 students per year, 25% of whom are full-time. Mesa offers nearly 200 associate degree and certificate programs and is one of 15 California community colleges offering a four-year baccalaureate degree. Mesa ranks as San Diego’s top transfer institution, is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution and a Military Friendly School, serving more than 3,500 veterans and their families.


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Tags: HACU, Isabel O'Connor, Hispanic Serving Institutions

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