President’s Letter - Elizabeth Ortiz

I write to you for the last time as ILACHE president.  It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the members of ILACHE.  Thank you for this wonderful experience.  Effective July 1st Andrew Sund will be our new ILACHE President. I am confident the future of this organization is in very good hands.
      It is my pleasure to provide highlights of our 20th annual conference, which was a milestone event for the Board.  The conference was record breaking with over 400 registrants and 26 sponsors.  We actually were forced to close down registration for the first time in ILACHE’s history.  The program included 14 workshops that were filled to capacity.  Our keynote speaker Maria Cotera captivated the audience with her talk on Chicana histories and the creation of a digital archive of their personal stories and journeys. 

In addition, we reflected on 20 years of ILACHE accomplishments, advocacy, and progress. I wanted to share some of the highlights and significant contributions.  Over the last 20 years ILACHE has become the preeminent voice for Latinos in higher education in the State of Illinois. Universities, legislators, educators, and community organizations know ILACHE as a viable and active partner.  In order to accomplish our work, ILACHE crafted and implemented a 6-year strategic plan to ensure our sustainability.  Our Strategic Plan for securing the future can be viewed at

ILACHE worked with IAHSE and Senator Iris Martinez to pass Senate Bill 387.  SB 387 includes state universities in the Hispanic Employment Plan and holds state universities accountable for hiring and retaining Latinos.  In 2010 ILACHE joined the Latino Policy Agenda Coalition, a consortium of more than 50 Latino organizations, dedicated to ensuring that Latinos are represented in every facet and sector of Illinois government.

ILACHE also established a Latino Student Scholarship fund that over the years has awarded 20 scholarships to Latino students.  As part of our strategic plan, ILACHE introduced an online newsletter and job board that is accessed by 1000s each month.  Just as importantly, universities are posting their open vacancies in ILACHE publications to help ensure they have Latino professionals applying to their institutions.

ILACHE created Latino Leadership awards in order to recognize our Latino heroes who work in education tirelessly so that our students can achieve success. We have awarded 10 lifetime achievement awards and have created 2 new categories, Emerging Leaders and Exemplary Leadership awards.

On the public policy front, ILACHE hosted 4 press conferences in Springfield to continue to hold our universities accountable for recruiting, and retaining, Latino students, faculty, and staff and to preserving vital financial resources such as MAP and  DFI for our students. ILACHE also has written numerous policy papers advocating on behalf of the Latino community.  ILACHE representatives assisted in the development of the Latino Agenda and the Future of Chicago that was recently submitted by the Organizing Committee for an Inclusive Chicago to the mayor of the city

Lastly, ILACHE members have served on numerous boards, created partnerships, and opened spaces for participation at decision-making tables.  This includes serving on IBHE initiatives such as DFI, the Public Agenda, and the Performance Funding Steering Committee.  ILACHE in the past 20 years has participated in educational partnerships such as the Illinois African American and Latino Higher Education Alliance, which produced the film “Storming the Gates” that has been shown throughout the State of Illinois.  ILACHE continues to advocate on behalf of our community in multiple policy forums, including the state legislature.  As long as there is an ILACHE we will continue to fight for Latino students, faculty, staff and our community.

As ILACHE looks to the future, we are keenly aware that the Latino presence in this country will continue to grow.  We know that the Latino will and collective spirit is strong. Latinos have the courage and drive to succeed, but we can only do so working together. As Cesar Chavez said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”