Dr. Anne-Marie Nuñez
Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs
The Ohio State University
For ten years, Anne-Marie Nuñez has served as a faculty member in higher education and student affairs, while conducting award-winning research on advancing equity in postsecondary education. During her nine years at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), a large Hispanic-Serving Institution, she helped launch a new program to educate master’s and doctoral students in higher education administration, the first of its kind in the city. As part of this effort, she developed and taught new courses in: (1) college access, identity, and development; (2) higher education organizations and systems; and (3) research and evaluation design. In her tenth year, she moved to serve as an associate professor of higher education in The Ohio State University Department of Educational Studies. As a professor, she has guided several students to present at conferences and to publish independent or co-authored pieces about topics including Latino student success, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and educational equity. One student whose dissertation she supervised about faculty in a Hispanic-Serving community college won a 2016 Dissertation of the Year award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges. In her work with several national and international professional associations, Dr. Nuñez has developed and led national mentoring programs that have reached over 150 graduate students and faculty of color who study and work in higher education.
Why did you choose to become a professor?
When I began my higher education career, I did not know I wanted to become a professor, as I was the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. and was unfamiliar with doctoral and professorial career pathways. As I developed my teaching and research, I felt that I could make a difference by broadening the knowledge base about the higher education experiences and outcomes of historically underserved groups like Latinos, and in turn influence institutional policies and practices to respond better to the educational needs of these groups. I became particularly interested in focusing on the educational success of Latinos because of how they have come to shape the demographic transformation of the U.S. Also, I came to realize that I enjoyed empowering students to fulfill their potential. Because I began my career in a large public Hispanic-Serving Institution (The University of Texas at San Antonio), I had many opportunities to teach Latino students about higher education research, policy, and practice. It was rewarding to serve as a role model for these students and help them expand their life possibilities. Some students said that I was the first Latina professor they had ever had, which inspired them to believe that they could take on a similar role. These experiences kept me motivated in my teaching and informed my research about Latinos and Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Overall, I became a professor because I wanted to strengthen educational opportunities for historically underserved students, families, and communities. I am grateful that this career has given me a chance to do so.
What resources (programs, tools, etc.) were available to you throughout your journey into teaching?
My relationships and networks have been incredibly supportive to me in my teaching. When I started at UTSA, I was fortunate to be part of a College of Education and Human Development that had a relatively high number of Latina professors. This situation was unusual, considering that 4% of all tenured or tenure-track professors in the U.S. are Latina. These professors invited me to participate in a support group for Latina faculty centered around research, teaching, and service to advance Latino educational attainment. They worked in areas of education ranging from elementary education, to higher education, to principal preparation. Often, the professorial career can be competitive, but we chose to guide one another through the tenure and promotion process, conducted research together, and offered one another advice about pedagogical approaches. In some cases, we even published about effective strategies for teaching Latino students, sharing our knowledge with a broader set of scholars. Together, we offered professional development to local educators about everything from teacher preparation, to college counseling, to being effective school leaders in settings with bilingual and Latino students. In addition, national programs such as those through the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) have helped me to develop effective, comprehensive, and updated course curricula in my field. Overall, I have been fortunate to have role models at all levels who have been willing to share strategies for effective teaching with me. My mentors, peers, and students have taught me so much about how to teach others.
What do you love about teaching?
I love creating conditions in which students can meet or exceed their own expectations for what is possible in their lives. This can mean inspiring students to change their career field to higher education, or it can mean encouraging students to pursue higher education fields with which they had been unfamiliar. I have seen students who thought they were bad at math become interested in statistics. Other students have developed new skills in evaluating higher education programs. Still other students have, to their own surprise, come to enjoy research, and gone on to shape knowledge and practice about higher education. Several students have mentioned that it was my passion for material that they thought would be boring, or the fact that I made them think about the material in new ways, that augmented their interest in different dimensions of higher education. It is also rewarding to teach students about my policy work, including that for The White House Commission Educational Excellence for Hispanics, to illustrate how research can make an impact beyond the university, in the policy arena. Nationally, as well as at my own institutions, I have encouraged many scholars to believe in themselves and to actualize their own potential for making significant contributions to higher education and the broader community.
When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?
Although I have had many great teachers, the person who most inspired me to focus on broadening postsecondary educational opportunities was actually not my own teacher, nor was he a professor or a K-12 teacher. His name was Sam Sanchez, and my brother served as a tutor in his program. Sam was a computer scientist who had been the first in his family to go to college, and came from a background where he had not been expected to pursue college. Although he had become successful in his own profession, he became concerned about the lack of Latinos going into math and science. So he independently started a program for Latino elementary and secondary school students called Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement, which provided educational tutoring outside of normal class hours. Despite having a separate full-time profession, and despite not having formal training in education or teaching, Sam still chose to support the next generation of Latino students, on his own limited time and with limited funds. What Sam lacked in time and funds, he made up for in ganas: he saw a problem and, through sheer desire and effort, found his unique way to become part of the solution. Sam showed me that simply having ganas can be the seed to develop an educational initiative to serve the community. Ever since, I have felt that, if Sam could create distinctive ways to serve Latino students, then I could also find a way to contribute to advancing postsecondary educational opportunities.