2023 Commencement Speakers
Sarita Brown and Deborah Santiago are the co-founders of Excelencia in Education, America’s premier authority on efforts accelerating Latino student success in higher education. They founded this national non-profit organization in 2004 to inform policy, compel action and collaborate with individuals and institutions to advance this critical cause. They also recognize outstanding programs with evidence of effectiveness in accelerating Latino student success, and FDU has been fortunate enough to have been cited as an “Example of Excelencia” for our Latino Promise and HACER programs.
At Commencement on May 17, they will deliver the commencement address and will be conferred the honorary degrees of Doctor of Humane Letters and hooded in Fairleigh Dickinson’s burgundy and blue colors.
Sarita Brown serves as the organization’s president and is responsible for the vision and governance of the organization. A recognized leader and advocate for equity in higher education, she began her career at the University of Texas at Austin, where she built a national model for increasing the number of students of color in graduate education and in the academy. Once in Washington, D.C., Sarita served in leadership roles in higher-education associations, at American University and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Institute. She also was appointed as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans during the Clinton Administration.
Deborah Santiago is the chief executive officer of Excelencia in Education. An innovator, thought leader, and educational visionary, she has led research and advanced evidence-based practices and strategies for more than 20 years at national levels to improve educational opportunities and success to better serve Latino — and all — students. Among her many contributions, Deborah has addressed federal legislative issues in higher education at the Congressional Research Service and informed program and policy implementation at the U.S. Department of Education. She also improved awareness and education opportunities for Latinos with federal agencies as the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.