Elsa Núñez

Elsa Núñez Speaks About Closing the Achievement Gap

October 12, 2010
By: WSU News

Eastern Connecticut State University President Dr. Elsa Núñez told students, faculty and staff last week that closing the achievement gap for students is a complex challenge requiring attention to education, health care and poverty issues. Her talk, “The Achievement Gap: No Excuses” was part of Worcester State University’s celebration of Latin Heritage month.

In outlining data to support her point, Núñez explained, “If you test three babies: a white baby, a black baby and a Hispanic baby, at nine months of age, you will find that all three babies have the same level of mental acuity.” But as they progress through school, the gap widens. Forty-five percent of Hispanics do not have a high school diploma in the U.S.; 14 percent for white students and 23 percent for black students. “How can this be, she asked, “that while they were attending school, they gap widened?”

Núñez said the issue is largely due to poverty and that a comprehensive approach is needed. “We need to address health care, nutrition, crime and racism. This is not just an education reform issue,” she said. She also suggested supporting early childhood education. “Children who begin an early childhood education program at age 3 are 30 percent more likely to graduate high school.” She urged WSU students and faculty to be part of the solution by volunteering their time and tutoring math and English in local and regional public schools.

Núñez is serving her fifth year as president of Eastern Connecticut State University. She has also served as a senior administrator at the University of Maine System and City University of New York. Under Dr. Núñez’s leadership, Eastern Connecticut State University has received several major national recognitions, including being named one of the top 100 Regional Universities in the North by U.S. News and World Report; being recognized for the second year in a row by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a “Great College to Work For”; being named to President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, also for the second year in a row; and being included in The Princeton Review’s list of Best Colleges in the Northeast.

Núñez received her B.A. from Montclair State College, an M.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University and a doctorate in linguistics from Rutgers University.

In addition to serving on the American Council on Education’s Commission on Women in Higher Education, she also serves on the boards of such organizations as the Girl Scouts of Connecticut, the Mark Twain House and Museum, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, for which she also serves as chair of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

The lecture was sponsored by the Latin Heritage Committee, comprised of representatives from the following WSU offices; the President’s Office, Third World Alliance, Diversity & Affirmative Action, Office of Multicultural Affairs, World Languages Department, Latino Education Institute, Center for Human Rights, Institutional Advancement and Public Relations and Marketing.

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