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National Organization to Honor Two From Cal State Fullerton
American Association of Hispanics in Higher Ed Salutes Abrego and Pérez

March 4, 2008 :: No. 175

For their contributions to education, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education will be honoring two Cal State Fullerton campus members Saturday, March 8.

Silas H. Abrego, associate vice president for student services, will receive the association’s Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr. Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award, and Patricia A. Pérez, assistant professor of Chicana and Chicano studies, will be recognized with the AAHHE’s Outstanding Dissertation Award at the organization’s national conference in Miami.

Silas H. Abrego
A member of the campus community since 1995, Abrego oversees nine student affairs programs, including the Ronald McNair Scholars and Upward Bound. He leads efforts to provide scholarships and educational enhancement programming for low-income and first-generation students, and is involved in many statewide advisory boards and committees.

“Dr. Abrego has worked tirelessly to enrich the educational experience and quality of services for students in general and Hispanic students specifically,” wrote Robert L. Palmer Jr., vice president for student affairs, in his nomination letter for Abrego. “Despite the barriers he faced as a Latino, he earned bachelor’s and master’s, as well as a doctoral, degrees.”

The son of farm workers with a grammar school education, Abrego was the first in his family to earn a college degree. He remembers that back in high school, teachers and administrators told him Latinos had two options upon graduation: join the military or find a manual job.

“They never had any hope for us,” recalled Abrego, who joined the Army and served as a paratrooper with the 173rd airborne brigade based in Okinawa, Japan, from 1963-65.

Once discharged, Abrego found a job as a construction worker but, like his childhood summer grape-picking jobs, couldn’t stand being on his feet under a blazing sun all day. So, he decided to earn an associate’s degree in machine technology, with the goal of becoming a high school shop teacher. Once he started studying, his ambition changed. He earned his master’s degree and doctorate in higher education, governance and management from USC.

 “I never knew I would love learning until I went to college,” said Abrego, a resident of West Covina. “No one expected me to. That’s why I decided to work to create higher education access and retention programs for people like me. I want to ensure access to higher education for anyone who desires it.”

Patricia A. Pérez
Pérez, who joined Cal State Fullerton’s faculty in 2006, received her master’s degree and doctorate in higher education and organizational change from UCLA.

Her doctoral dissertation focused on Chicana and Chicano college choice. “Social Capital and Chain Migration: The College Choice Process of Chicana and Chicano Community College, Transfer and University Students” defines college choice as “the entire spectrum beginning with the predisposition for college, all the way through to the matriculation to a specific higher education institution and the factors behind that selection,” said Pérez, a resident of Fullerton.

“I decided to research this topic for several reasons,” Pérez said. “First, the traditional college choice models that exist do not reflect the Chicana and Chicano student experience well. In fact, the existing college choice models do not speak to the transfer student experience at all. Given most Chicana and Chicano students begin their postsecondary careers at a community college, this was a research gap that needed to be addressed.”

Pérez said she wanted to document the transfer college choice process and develop a theoretical framework that considers the transfer student population. “The bulk of the literature on college choice is quantitative and the scholarship on Chicana and Chicano students favors Chicanas,” she said. “I wanted to contribute to a more holistic understanding of the Chicana and Chicano college choice process by incorporating both men and women using qualitative methodologies.”

She is incorporating parts of her dissertation research into her classes that discuss Chicana and Chicano education issues. As part of her award, Pérez will receive a $5,000 and travel expenses to AAHHE’s conference, where she will present her research.  

Media Contacts: Silas Abrego, Student Affairs, at 657-278-2486 or
Mimi Ko Cruz of Public Affairs at 657-278-7586 or

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