April 19, 2023

HACU’s 28th Annual National Capitol Forum brings together advocates for HSIs

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) kicked off its 28th Annual National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education on April 18, 2023, featuring notable guest speakers during the largest Forum gathering to date. Approximately 375 participants were in attendance.

Four pre-Forum free workshops featured representatives from the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Department of Agriculture, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Housing and Human Services, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Justice, and the Defense Health Agency. Representatives provided information about grants and opportunities available for Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

The event officially launched with the Opening Plenary luncheon, “The New Normal in Higher Education-Post COVID-19,” convened by HACU Governing Board Chair and Alamo Colleges District Chancellor Mike Flores. The discussion focused on the ongoing need for support of Hispanic education at all levels to address systemic inequities highlighted by the pandemic.

The Opening Plenary featured a virtual address by Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris, followed by an in-person address from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. Program Director Janeth Sanchez of Health Equity, All of Us Research program at the National Institutes of Health also provided a presentation as a featured partner of the Forum.

The early afternoon session following the plenary, “Building Federal Partnerships and Securing Opportunities for HSIs,” convened by Senior VP for Policy and Government Relations, Lena Rodriguez, featured U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a Fireside Chat with HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores. Other speakers at the session were:

  • Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at U.S. Department of State, Lee Satterfield
  • Assistant Secretary of Partnership and Engagement at U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Brenda Abdelall
  • President and Chair of the Board of Directors at Export-Import Bank of the United States, Reta Jo Lewis

The late afternoon session, “Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Caucus Educational Priorities,” was convened by HACU Governing Board member and San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Ted Alejandre, and featured Sen. Robert Menendez giving opening remarks, as well as featured speakers:

  • Rep. Juan Ciscomani (AZ, D-6)
  • Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA, D-33)
  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT, D-3)
  • Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY, D-13)
  • Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (PR)


The day concluded with a Higher Education Priorities and HACU’s Legislative Agenda session featuring Sarah Abernathy, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, Lena Rodriguez, senior vice president for policy and government relations, HACU, and Xiomara Santos, director for government relations, HACU. Rodriguez and Santos also conducted the State Delegation briefings and Overview of Congressional Visits.

A presentation on Advocacy Tips was provided by Kellie L. LeDet, chief government affairs officer and special assistant to the president for government affairs and community partnerships, Kean University; and George Williams, interim provost/vice president for academic affairs, vice president for student affairs, Our Lady of the Lake University. Final sessions for the day was a Student Advocacy 101.

Special thanks to partners and sponsors of HACU’s 28th National Capitol Forum:  The National Institutes of Health All of Us Research Program, National University, Bitwise, and Southwest Airlines.