By Angelica Gavaldon.

Southwest Airlines is proud to contribute to the communities we serve, and our love of People and Community is our most powerful fuel.

Our commitment to support education initiatives encompass various facets such as leadership and mentoring, and college access is at the forefront. We are proud to feature Dr. Adela de la Torre, a respected leader who is lifting her community, the students and faculty of San Diego State University. We applaud President de la Torre for her vision, her dedication and her commitment to quality higher education as she takes the role of the ninth President (AND first woman President!) of San Diego State University.

Dr. Adela de la Torre recently became the ninth President of San Diego State University and the first woman to serve in this role. At the center of her motivation and passion is the success of the faculty and students. She seeks to build on the exceptional legacy that has made San Diego State the world-class educational institution that it is.

When did your passion for education begin?

My passion for education began as a young child; watching my grandmother encourage and support her daughter, my mother, to pursue her college education. Despite the challenges she faced as a single mother, she eventually graduated and went on to enjoy a 40-year career as a public school teacher. Watching my grandmother’s and my mother’s sacrifices to achieve this goal have always been a reminder of the power of education

What are some challenges you have faced and overcome?

Like many other Latinas growing up during the late 20th century, I faced many misconceptions and biases about my competence and my abilities. They have given me empathy for our students, and their families, many of whom are still dealing with these challenges and barriers to success.

What are you most grateful for?

I was very fortunate to watch my grandmother open her home to family, neighbors and friends who needed help, despite her own limited resources. I am tremendously grateful for that upbringing and core values that paved the way to my success. I believe this foundation helped me appreciate the bicultural, bilingual environment we live in and the global perspectives that surround us.

What or who motivates you to be exceptional?

The success of our faculty and our students. As someone who has been a faculty member for the majority of my career, the learning that goes on in the classroom and the laboratory is never far from my mind. At each step in my transition—from faculty to department chair, to administrator, and now to University President—this focus on student success has remained a major motivation and source of excitement.

What are your vision and goals for the SDSU campus?

My #1 job is to continue to build on the exceptional legacy that has made San Diego State the world-class research institution that it is. My vision is that faculty and staff work together to graduate the global citizens, compassionate leaders and ethical innovators that will make an impact in the San Diego community and the world at large.

To achieve this vision, we will need to:

  • Collaborate with faculty and deans to identify and amplify areas of distinction
  • Expand our innovation and research capacity for the Mission Valley expansion opportunity
  • Develop synergies for shared commitment among our stakeholders
  • Expand the capacity of and access to the SDSU Imperial Valley campus 
  • Develop exemplary national, binational, and international relationships
  • Ensure infrastructure can sustain the demands and challenges of today and tomorrow’s educational landscape
  • Commit to a process of transparent and timely communication
  • Measure progress with a variety of metrics
  • Nurture a culture where we listen and engage in productive dialogue

What advice would you give to other women trying to succeed in their own careers?

Stay true to your core values, surround yourself with mentors willing to help along the journey, and allow the quality of your work speak for itself—all of which has allowed me to stay positive and on track despite the criticism that will show up along the way.

Photo credit: Scott Hargrove/San Diego State University