Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Stanford Administrator Advocated for Latino Students

Former Stanford University administrator Cecilia Preciado Burciaga worked to support many first-generation Latino college students transition into the university.

Now that she has passed away at age 67, many of those former students are stepping forward to share the impact she made on their lives. They include successful professors and attorneys.

“She taught hesitant young women and men, many the first in their families to attend college, that they belonged and could thrive at the elite private school, and later kept more than a few from dropping out,” according to a Los Angeles Times article.

“She soothed nervous parents, persuading them, in Spanish and English, that the university was a safe place for their children and that it would open their eyes to new worlds. At Stanford, she also successfully pushed university leaders to hire additional Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and women for faculty positions, and admit more to graduate programs.”

Despite her achievements, she also endured some tumultuous periods. After 20 years at Stanford, she was laid off by the university in 1994. She then became a founding dean at California State University-Monterey Bay. But that relationship concluded when in 2002, she was one of three Latino plaintiffs who came to a $1 million settlement with the university in a racial discrimination case.

Through those difficult times, she continued to be admired by her former students. Stanford posted its own tribute to her on its web site. She and her husband Tony were resident advisors at the Chicano dorm, Casa Zapata.

R. Vanessa Alvarado, ’97, a deputy city attorney in Los Angeles, said the two were role models for her.

“What is most meaningful about Cecilia and Tony’s presence in my family life’s is that they gave our mother, a woman with a third-grade education who grew up on a small farm on the outskirts of a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, and my father, who graduated from high school past the age of 60, the reassurance that their two daughters would not be lost amid the seemingly inaccessible walls of a university,” she told Stanford News.

“I remember when my mother came back to campus for Admit Weekend and talked on a panel for prospective students how amazed I was as she advocated to Latino parents to let their children go away for school. I mentored students as an undergraduate, as a law student and continue doing that today. That is how I will continue to honor their memory.”

This makes me wonder–who are the Latino administrators of this era who are supporting such students? What lessons can we learn from them?