Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Arizona State Steps Up Game on Studying Latinos’ Political Engagement

Arizona State University, in an effort to break new ground around the engagement of Latinos in the political process, has created a new chair on the topic and hired a top political scientist, Rodney Hero, to fill the post.

The new chair is just the latest move by ASU, which serves nearly 100,000 students, to enhance its Hispanic programs as its Latino enrollment has increased (to about 20 percent).

The endowed chair is named after Raul Yzaguirre, the former president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, a prominent civil rights organization. (The council recently changed its name to UnidosUS). This month, ASU officials announced at the annual conference of UnidosUS in Phoenix that Hero, the first Latino president of the American Political Science Association, would be the first Raul Yzaguirre Chair in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Yzaguirre, who did not attend the conference, is a presidential professor of practice at ASU. He called Hero, who also was the first Latino president of the American Political Science Association, an innovative thinker.

ASU has been developing programs over the last few years as its Hispanic enrollment has increased. They include a mother-daughter program that reaches out to Latino middle and high school students who are the first in their family to graduate college; a Hispanic research center; and a division that publishes literary works by or about U.S. Hispanics.

Hero is best known for co-writing a book outlining the first systematic study of black-Latino relations at the national level in U.S. politics.

Hero  plans to focus his research on the role of interest groups and advocacy groups in Latino politics, an area he said has not been studied very much. Most of the research related to Latinos in U.S. politics, Hero said, has been done on voting rights and other similar topics.

In a phone interview, Hero said he hopes to create a research center, develop a speaker series and work closely with Latino students to encourage more of them to become college faculty in political science.. Despite the growth in the U.S. Hispanic population, Latinos remain severely underrepresented in political science, according to Hero.

Before arriving at ASU, Hero taught at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Colorado, among other institutions.