Roger Haro was a first-generation student in college from a historically under-represented group as a Mexican-American. When The UW-La Crosse biology professor started his career as a scientist, he met few scientists from minority backgrounds. That fueled his ambition to work with under-represented college students.
“Science is a great career path and I wanted to broaden its ranks,” Haro explains. He has — and now his enthusiasm is being recognized.
Haro, who also directs the university’s McNair Scholars Program, received the 2014 UW System Board of Regents Diversity Award in February. The award — one of only two given to individuals statewide — recognizes institutional change agents who have had a significant impact in promoting equity in educational outcomes for historically under-represented student populations.
Haro established the McNair Scholars Program at UW-L in 2007 with Biology Professor Robin Tyser. Since 2009 Haro has been director of the program, which provides low-income, first-generation and under-represented college students with preparation for graduate school. First generation describes students whose parents did not enroll in post-secondary education.
Since the program’s inception, it has served more than 50 students — 20 are undergraduates; 33 have met the program’s objectives of successfully completing research with a faculty mentor and graduating within three years of starting the program. Nearly 80 percent of the program’s graduates have enrolled or graduated from a post-baccalaureate program.
The Regents committee saluted Haro for continuously seeking to nurture and support under-represented students in pursuit of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) higher education dreams.
“It was clear from the nomination materials submitted just how deeply and thoroughly you have committed yourself to serving students from historically under-represented populations, particularly those in the STEM disciplines at UW-La Crosse, as an advocate, scholar, and leader,” it states in a letter from the chair of the Regents Diversity Award committee.
Haro’s teaching honor isn’t the only one earned by faculty in recent months. History Professor Victor Macías-González received the 2013 Wisconsin Professor of the Year Award from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in November. And, UW-L’s Biology Department received the 2013 UW System Regents Teaching Excellence Award for academic departments and programs.