Dr. Mildred García assumed the presidency of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) on January 22, 2018.
As AASCU's president, Dr. García is an advocate for public higher education at the national level, working to influence federal policy and regulations on behalf of member colleges and universities; serving as a resource to presidents and chancellors as they address state policy and emerging campus issues; developing collaborative partnerships and initiatives that advance public higher education; directing a strategic agenda that focuses on public college and university leadership for the 21st century; and providing professional development opportunities for presidents, chancellors, and their spouses. She is the first Latina to lead one of the six presidentially based higher education associations in Washington, D.C.
As a university president, Dr. García was an active member of AASCU. Her volunteer involvement with AASCU included chairing the AASCU Council of State Representatives; serving on the AASCU Board of Directors; chairing the Committee on International Education; serving as a Millennium Leadership Initiative Institute mentor; and delivering the Marie McDemmond Lecture and the President-to-Presidents lecture, a tradition at the AASCU Annual Meeting for more than 30 years and a signal honor given by the AASCU Board of Directors to one of their colleagues.
Prior to joining AASCU, Dr. García served as the president of California State University, Fullerton—the largest university in the CSU and the third largest university in the state, serving over 40,000 students and having an operating budget of almost half a billion dollars. Under her leadership, the university saw a 30 percent improvement in six-year graduation rates and a 65 percent improvement in four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen—both university records; the achievement gap was eliminated for transfer students and cut in half for first-time freshmen; and annual gift commitments nearly tripled (from $8.5 million to $22 million). In 2016, for the first time in history, U.S. News & World Report heralded the institution as a top "national university," rather than "top regional university," the far narrower category in which it had previously been ranked. The institution is now number one in California and second in the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanics, as well as sixth in the nation in graduating students of color.
President García previously served as president of CSU Dominguez Hills where, as the first Latina president in the largest system of public higher education in the country, she eliminated a structural deficit of $2.8 million; increased media placement by 192 percent; received the highest reaccreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges; exceeded enrollment targets not met for eight years; increased donor giving by 140 percent; and increased retention rates for first-time full-time freshmen by 10 percent.
Before to her arrival in the CSU, President García served as the CEO of Berkeley College where she was the first system-wide president for all six campuses. In her six-year tenure, she increased enrollment by 25 percent; established professional advisory boards for academic programs; implemented the institution's first system-wide strategic planning process; and purchased property and opened a new campus in Newark, N.J., as well as a residence hall in White Plains, N.Y.
She has held both academic and senior-level positions at Arizona State University; Montclair State University; Pennsylvania State University; Teachers College, Columbia University; and the Hostos, LaGuardia, and City Colleges of the City University of New York. She is also a much sought-after speaker at national and international conferences and an academic researcher that has published numerous academic journal articles and books.
A recipient of myriad honors and awards—from Hispanic Business Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Hispanics in 2007 to Diverse Issues in Higher Education’s Top 25 Women in Higher Education in 2013—Dr. García was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the U.S. Secretary of Defense to serve on Air University’s Board of Visitors, and the U.S. Secretary of Education to serve on the Committee on Measures of Student Success. She presently sits on the boards of PBS, ETS, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE), and American Academic Leadership Institute (AALI). In addition, she serves as the co-chair for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Value Commission.
In March 2021, Washingtonian magazine named Dr. García one of Washington’s Most Influential People. The magazine chose 250 experts and advocates outside the government for the list, looking at who will “be shaping the policy debates of the years to come.”
A first-generation college student, Dr. García earned a Doctor of Education and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University; an M.A. in Business Education/Higher Education from New York University; a B.S. in Business Education from Baruch College, City University of New York; and an A.A.S. from New York City Community College.