Recognizing Diverse Leadership

Abrego Receives OC Human Relations Award

For his decades of work advancing human rights in higher education, Silas H. Abrego is being named a recipient of a 2012 Orange County Human Relations award.

Abrego, Cal State Fullerton’s interim vice president for student affairs, will receive one of the organization’s “Diverse Community Leaders” awards May 10 in Anaheim.

He was chosen “because he is a true hero,” said Rusty Kennedy, executive director of OC Human Relations.

“I am incredibly honored by this award,” Abrego said. “I’ve dedicated my career to the advancement of student success and being recognized for doing my job is humbling, and I'm very appreciative and thankful to OC Human Relations.”

Twenty-five years ago, “Sy co-chaired the United Way Hispanic Development Council’s Leadership Development Program with me, creating a comprehensive human relations training program for multiethnic community leaders of tomorrow,” Kennedy noted. “This work was over and above the call of responsibility. Sy was a volunteer at United Way in this special Hispanic outreach effort. His leadership helped reframe the nationalistic approach that was suggested to become an inclusive training program attracting diverse young leaders.”

In addition, Kennedy said Abrego, who was a founder of the OC Community Foundation, has helped raise millions of dollars in funds for student scholarships.

Kandy Mink Salas, associate vice president for student affairs, called Abrego’s commitment to student success “exceptional.”

“During Dr. Abrego’s 27-year tenure at the university, he has stressed the theme of cultural diversity and access on the campus and has always fostered an environment in which students are secure, comfortable and prepared to meet the rigors of the academic endeavor,” she wrote in her award nomination letter for Abrego. “He has been at the forefront of supporting strong educational causes and, on many occasions, these causes were on behalf of the Latino community and its students.”

Mink Salas pointed to Abrego’s advocacy efforts and accomplishments, including:

  • forming new partnerships with public and private entities in the Orange County community;
  • providing leadership for systemic change across educational sectors; and
  • fostering institutional change that continues to increase the educational attainment and success of underrepresented groups in higher education.

Abrego’s “insight and expertise assist in breaking down many of the barriers to higher education that members of the Latino community sometimes face as they attempt to navigate the system in search of a better education for their children,” Mink Salas said.

“I consider Dr. Abrego to be a truly outstanding educator whose student-focused activities and initiatives contribute to the growing positive reputation and service to the citizens of Orange County and the region,” she added. “I have a great deal of respect for the service, commitment and integrity he brings to higher education.”

Abrego, who earned his master’s degree and educational doctorate at USC, joined Cal State Fullerton in 1985 as director of student academic services and university outreach. He was appointed associate vice president for student affairs in 1998 and last year was appointed interim vice president for student affairs.

He manages all units within the Division of Student Affairs, including intercollegiate athletics, the Career Center, Office of Disabled Student Services, student housing, the Student Health and Counseling Center and University Learning Center. He oversees a staff of more than 325, including the dean of students and college-based assistant deans.

In 2008, Abrego was honored by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education with its Alfredo G. de los Santos Jr. Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education Award. He also has been recognized by the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Orange County United Way, Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County and the Hispanic Outreach Task Force.

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