By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña
San Diego State University is entering a transformative moment in its history, and newly appointed President Adela de la Torre is committed to take on the task.
As the ninth president of the university, de la Torre is the first woman and Latina to serve in that role.
“My vision is to focus on how to create not only the next level of importance or significance of research and teaching, but I’m particularly committed to creating opportunities for our students so that they can become global citizens, compassionate leaders, and ethical innovators,” de la Torre said.
And although creating the next generation of leaders in the region seems like a difficult task to take on, it is a job de la Torre was raised to accomplish.
Originally from the Bay Area, education was an an important aspect of de la Torre’s everyday life.
Her mother, the sole provider of their household, was a public school teacher who de la Torre recalls had to work hard year round to support their family. Her grandmother in many ways was also like a mother to her, as she instilled the value of education, family, generosity and humility in de la Torre.
“(My grandmother) felt that as long as I could learn – and she wanted me to learn everything – I would be successful in life,” de la Torre said.
De la Torre recalls a time when her and her grandmother would walk past a university campus and she would say to her in Spanish, “aqui vas a estudiar Adelita” (you’re going to study here Adelita).
“I think early on I had wonderful role models that helped me value education,” de la Torre said.
Once in college, de la Torre was not sure what she wanted to do but was enamored by the fact that she wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and teach, however, it was a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, who encouraged her to pursue a career in higher education.
“I began to really understand, once I was in a graduate program, what an impact I could make in higher education,” de la Torre said. “In other words, again I was always motivated by the fact that I really enjoyed teaching, I really enjoyed engaging with students, and I wanted to make a difference.”
De la Torre earned her bachelor’s degree in political economy of natural resources and her master’s and doctorate degree in agricultural and resources economics from UC Berkeley.
She served in several programs and departments at CSU campuses, as well as the director of the Mexican American Studies and Research Center at the University of Arizona.
Before joining SDSU, de la Torre served as the vice chancellor of student affairs and campus diversity at UC Davis.
Looking back, de la Torre said she would not be where she is without her mother and grandmother.
She said she feels blessed in so many ways and she knows that her role as the first Latina president of the university is particularly important for the Latino community and women.
On Thursday, Aug. 16, de la Torre was celebrated by the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for her accomplishments and contributions to the community.
SDCHCC President Juan Carlos Hernandez said it was an honor to welcome de la Torre as the first Latina president of SDSU.
“It is important to celebrate the accomplishments of our community and highlight the path that Dr. de la Torre has established for our Latina Women,” Hernandez said. “The historic event (was) a demonstration that SDSU and SDCHCC are committed to establishing relationships and building pathways to create a successful future for our members and the communities we serve.”
De la Torre said the university is in a unique moment of history and there is an opportunity in Mission Valley to create opportunities related to educational access and the region.
She said that what will always be important for her is the success of students.
“At the end of the day I want to say that I was able to transform an institution so that our students can reach their dreams and become the leaders of the future,” de la Torre said.