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José Higuera López, PhD | Director

José Higuera LópezJosé Higuera López is the Director of the CUNY Mexican Studies Institute (CUNY MSI), housed at Lehman College. He served as both Academic and Administrative Director from December 2016 through August 2021. Born in Tijuana, México, Dr. Higuera López immigrated to the United States in 2009. He is an accomplished educator and administrator with over twenty years of experience in both countries.

Since September 2016, Dr. Higuera López has successfully fundraised and secured over $7 million dollars in multiple grants and awards. These resources have helped establish and consolidate the numerous initiatives and programs hosted by CUNY MSI. These initiatives directly benefit thousands of New Yorkers every year, by boosting enrollment of Mexican and Mexican-American students in CUNY, promoting equity and upward mobility through academic achievement, fostering research, and collaborating with community-based organizations and public institutions to support and empower all New Yorkers.

Under the leadership of Dr. Higuera López, CUNY MSI has established historic partnerships with other higher-education institutions and research centers, government agencies, and community-based organizations. Particularly, in order to promote student and faculty mobility, CUNY MSI has signed agreements with top higher-education institutions in Mexico, namely Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), El Colegio de México (Colmex), Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala (UATx), Universidad Autónoma de México (UAM),  and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

Aware of the importance of preserving the historical memory of the Mexican community in New York, Dr. Higuera López founded the Digital Archives and Resources Unit as well as the CUNY Mexican Studies Archives and Library. Furthermore, in collaboration with BronxNet, he created the Mexican Studies Oral History Project, a television program that documents the experience, challenges, and contributions of the Mexican community in New York City. 

In 2020, he consolidated a collaboration with the New York Public Library (NYPL) to create the Mexican Studies Institute permanent sub-collection under the History Now: The Pandemic Diaries Project. History Now aims to capture oral stories of people during the COVID-19 era. The collaboration between CUNY MSI and the NYPL enhances the inclusion of individuals with Latin American heritage.

In 2019, Dr. Higuera López partnered with the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) to offer CUNY MSI graduating cohorts the opportunity to create innovative worker-owned businesses, effectively providing a pathway to work with and for communities directly affected by social and economic inequality, specifically people of color, recent immigrants, and DREAMers. During the same year, he initiated a collaboration with PEN America: DREAMing Out Loud, consisting of a paid, tuition-free creative writing workshop series for young immigrants, undocumented, DACA, and DREAMers writers.

In 2019, he founded the New York City International Book Fair (FIL Ciudad de Nueva York), whose mission is to disseminate academic and literary work published in Spanish in Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, and the United States, in addition to promoting reading among the Hispanic community in New York. In its first edition, 90 writers participated representing more than 20 countries, resulting in the publication of the First Poetic Anthology. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its second edition moved to a virtual setting. Over 70 authors and specialists participated in a month-long program, reaching an organic interaction of over 72,000 people.

Also in 2019, he created the MSI Digital Research Fellowship for CUNY Graduate Students. This research fellowship identifies lines of research critical to the Mexican diaspora to gather significant data on local, national, and international issues.

In 2017, he expanded the Mexican Studies Scholarship Fund by securing a $575,000 dollars donation to establish the MSI Fellowship, which awards scholarships to highly motivated students, supports current and future community leaders, and guides students through a year-round leadership program that provides them with life skills that help them succeed after earning a degree. Since 2017, he has raised over $1.2 million dollars, benefiting over 200 students from different countries such as Argentina, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the US.

In 2017, he established the Educational Opportunities Initiative (EOI). This initiative offers free educational consulting services and workshops to help New Yorkers navigate the American education system and improve educational outcomes across the five boroughs of New York City, especially in underserved communities. So far, the EOI has benefited over 9,000 people and reached over 17,000 with the online virtual workshops.

Since 2016, he has coordinated the teaching of indigenous languages at Lehman College between Mexican instructors and the Indigenous Languages Consortium. The Consortium was established by CUNY MSI, New York University (NYU) and Columbia University to promote and revitalize the indigenous languages of migrant communities. In 2018, he collaborated with the Office of the NY Governor, creating an Indigenous Language Volunteer Roster of over 200 volunteers to provide free emergency interpretation services to unaccompanied minors.
Before joining the CUNY MSI, Dr. Higuera López was a professor of the School of Languages and the School of Pedagogy and Educational Innovation at Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, in Mexico. In 2011, he founded the CCBR Preschool, Language & Arts Center in Brooklyn, where he served as Founding Director until February 2016. Previously, as Co-founder and Vice-president of the Mexican Association of Pedagogical Consultants, he developed and implemented numerous workshops on techniques and strategies to strengthen academic practices for the Baja California State Department of Education, in Mexico.

Dr. Higuera López holds a BA in English Language Teaching from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, an MA in Education from Universidad Autónoma de Durango, and a PhD in Educational Management and Policy from Universidad de Baja California. In 2006, he was granted a Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship at the University of Arkansas and is a member of the Fulbright Association. His research interests focus on the analysis of administrative practices in higher education institutions that promote retention and graduation in first-generation college students, the promotion of resilience factors in undocumented students, documentation of the historical memory of the Mexican diaspora, creation of digital content for the revitalization of indigenous languages in transnational communities, among others. Dr. José Higuera López is convinced that a strong academic background that encourages leadership and promotes cultural understanding furthers opportunities for students that lead to success.