The Aspen Institute had long considered developing a program that would engage members of the Institute’s community with other non-Latino leaders and American Latinos in critical conversations about America’s growing Hispanic population. In 2014 the Institute approached Monica Lozano, former chief executive officer of ImpreMedia, one of the largest media companies serving the Hispanic communities in the United States, to spearhead the development of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program. Ms. Lozano convened a cross-sectoral, multiethnic advisory board that includes nine of the nation’s leading business, government and institutional leaders and then assumed her role as chair. Abigail Golden-Vazquez, a vice president of the Institute and deputy director of the Global Leadership Initiatives, was tapped as founding executive director to lead the program.
In 2015 the Latinos and Society Program received founding contributions from the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation and the Ricardo Salinas Foundation. The contributions were the first of several from individual funders, leading foundations and corporate partners.
The program unveiled several programmatic components in its first year, including the:
- Ricardo Salinas Scholarship: This scholarship fund aims to increase the participation of American Latinos in the Aspen Institute’s activities so that their important perspectives are at the table. The scholarship also offers candidates new opportunities to develop their leadership skills through participation in the Institute’s programs.
- Deep-Dive Retreats on Policy and Issues: These convenings of diverse groups address critical challenges facing Latinos and the nation. They may lead to white papers, reports, recommendations, or project ideas that identify critical issues demanding further attention within the Latino community, as well as policy agendas to address them.
- Educational Programming: We conduct informational programming and events around a variety of Latino issues and topics of interest to Aspen Institute constituencies, such as the role of the Latino vote.
For the past five years, the AILAS Program has been fulfilling its purpose to raise awareness, transform perceptions, and move people to action in support of Latino civic engagement, educational attainment, and economic advancement. As the second-largest population in the United States, American Latinos are reshaping what we know of as mainstream society. At the core of our programming, we seek to address this question:
How can we foster greater understanding of the role American Latinos play – and involve them in addressing our country’s most critical issues?