SUNY chancellor selects UB’s Patricia Diaz for 2024 Hispanic Leadership Institute

Patricia Diaz.

Photo: Douglas Levere

Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowment Chair and director of UB Microbiome Center among 11 fellows this year

Release Date: December 5, 2023

John B. King, Jr.

John B. King, Jr. 

“By working to increase Hispanic and ally representation in leadership positions, the HLI provides its fellows with the skills needed to ensure they are represented at the decision-making table and know they’ll be valued and supported throughout their careers at SUNY."
John B. King, Jr., Chancellor
State University of New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Patricia Diaz, DDS, PhD, Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowment Chair in the School of Dental Medicine at the University at Buffalo, is one of 11 fellows selected for the 2024 Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI) class for the State University of New York.

SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. recently announced the 11 emerging Hispanic/Latinx leaders and allies selected for this year’s class, which is the seventh class since the program’s inception in 2017.

“By working to increase Hispanic and ally representation in leadership positions, the HLI provides its fellows with the skills needed to ensure they are represented at the decision-making table and know they’ll be valued and supported throughout their careers at SUNY,” King said. “These eleven individuals are role models to colleagues and students, and we congratulate them as they start their HLI journey.”

Thanks to generous support from New York State and the State Assembly’s Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, SUNY’s Hispanic Leadership Institute bolsters Hispanic/Latinx leaders and allies through rigorous executive training and provides a network to grow in their positions. The fellows, who hold faculty and staff positions at SUNY community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, will begin their work in January. Diaz is the only fellow from UB chosen for the class of 2024.

Diaz, who joined UB in 2020, also serves as director of its Microbiome Center. In early November, she was appointed the Sunstar Robert J. Genco Endowment Chair. She was the first faculty member to be appointed to the $1 million endowed chair, which honors Robert Genco, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Oral Biology, Periodontics and Microbiology and founder of the Microbiome Center. He passed away in March 2019.

“Dr. Diaz has proven her prowess as a researcher and academic leader in just a few short years at UB,” said Marcelo Araujo, DDS, MS, PhD, dean of UB’s School of Dental Medicine. “It is no surprise that she was chosen as a fellow for the prestigious Hispanic Leadership Institute. I know she will represent UB and the School of Dental Medicine extraordinarily well.”

Diaz earned her doctor of dental science (DDS) from CES University in Colombia, her PhD from the University of Adelaide and her master of science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she also completed her residency in periodontology. A leader in the study of microbiomes, Diaz aims to understand community dynamics and develop tools to manipulate the microbiome to stop the development of periodontal disease.

HLI is housed within SUNY’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI). It is a demanding six-month experience for SUNY leaders of Hispanic/Latinx descent and their allies that positions them to further develop higher education leadership skills and proficiencies. HLI fellows take part in training sessions and webinars, converse with national and statewide Hispanic/Latinx leaders, and master personal assessment tools. HLI creates a pathway for professional opportunities across SUNY and ensures alumni are networking and receiving continuous support and mentorsh

HLI is under the direction of Zulaika Rodriguez-Awoliyi, assistant vice chancellor for presidential searches and development. King announced 2023 Doris Díaz-Kelly, HLI fellow, as the second director-in-residence of the institute, who will assist Rodriguez-Awoliyi.

“As Hispanic higher education enrollment grows, we must continue to attract and retain Hispanic leaders and allies across SUNY who can drive our efforts to become a more inclusive system,” said SUNY Board Trustee Marcos Crespo. “Representation matters because we cannot set out to be what we cannot see for ourselves. Year after year, the HLI fellowship provides a powerful platform to celebrate and support emerging leaders across the SUNY system, who have a vital role to play in shaping the future of SUNY and New York State.”

Along with Diaz, this year’s fellows are:

  • Flor Araujo, SUNY Orange, director, Center for Student Success
  • Diana Castellanos, Binghamton University, talent acquisition specialist
  • George W. Contreras, SUNY Westchester Community College, dean, School of Health Sciences and Wellness
  • Adam Gonzalez, Stony Brook University, associate professor and vice chair of behavioral health, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Renaissance School of Medicine
  • Juan P. Hinestroza, Cornell University, professor of fiber science and apparel design, College of Human Ecology
  • Virginia Meléndez, Rockland Community College, executive director of strategic initiatives
  • Giovanna Montenegro, Binghamton University, associate professor of comparative literature and romance languages and director, Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies
  • Julio Olaizola, SUNY Research Foundation, project manager, SUNY ATTAIN
  • Pablo Salinas, Fashion Institute of Technology, director of capital budgets
  • Christina Seado Vasquez, SUNY Oswego, project administrative officer and director, Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP).

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Laurie Kaiser
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