Academic Programming. Innovative Research. Latinos Front and Center.

The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute draws on the intellectual strength of the George Washington University and the resources of the nation’s capital to bring together innovative research focused on the Latino community and culturally competent academic programming and student support.


The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute’s work focuses on four intersecting priority areas that impact the advancement of Hispanics/Latinos in the United States:

Higher Education

Higher education is important for advancing into the country's leadership. Latinos must be represented in all levels of institutions and have the support to thrive while there.


In order for Latinos to advance they must have access to opportunities, to aspiration and to the sites of power.

Economic Equity

To promote economic equity, we have to open pathways that have traditionally been limited to privileged spaces and think more expansively about the costs of achievement.


We understand well-being as the holistic consideration of social, emotional and physical factors that impact our daily experiences and, ultimately, our success.

Gil Cisneros

"I have always believed that since this university is the nation’s university, the students should reflect the nation’s population. As more students realize their dreams of higher education, GW will be able to educate the next group of citizen leaders — just as President Washington once envisioned."

Gil Cisneros
Founder, Cisneros Institute


To increase the potential of our students to be citizen scholars who graduate with the tools to serve and lead in their communities while producing innovative research that informs our nation’s dialogue and decision-making about issues and their impact on the Latino community.


The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute aspires to be the model in higher education for innovative leadership development and academic research that includes and elevates Latino voices.


Through an emphasis on “cultural intelligence,” the Cisneros Institute leverages research and innovative, culturally-competent approaches to leadership development to helps participants of all ages grow into citizen scholars, ready to engage, lead and make a difference in the world. For partners, media and policymakers, the Cisneros Institute is the nexus of scholarship and community engagement, offering data-driven research and analysis that facilitates creative approaches to the most pressing contemporary policy issues.




The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute is founded through a generous endowment from Gilbert Cisneros (CCAS BA ’94) and his wife Jacki Cisneros in December 2015. The Cisneros family envisions a home away from home that would support students and help to advance the Hispanic/Latino community in the United States.

Dr. Daniel Martínez serves as the Institute’s Interim Director, while a national search brings Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera as the inaugural Executive Director in the summer of 2016. That same summer, the Cisneros Institute launched the first session of the now annual Caminos al Futuro pre-college summer program. 


Defining Our Mission

In the fall of 2016, the first cohort of Cisneros Scholars start their undergraduate journeys at GW as members of the Class of 2020. Under the leadership of Dr. Vaquera, the Institute expands its research portfolio alongside affiliate faculty in the university, shaping our model of translating best practices and contemporary research on Latinos in the United States into academic programming and culturally competent student support.

In the summer of 2017, the Institute launches Comunicadores for the Future in partnership with Vanguard Communications, to expand the accessibility of summer internships and encourage more diverse participation in the field of communications by providing training, funding, and housing for the duration of the program.

By the end of 2017, the Institute team grows to include an Associate Director, Program Coordinator and Graduate Fellow, as well as the support of the Cisneros Advisory Council. As part of this new support, the Institute expands its work with nonprofits, policymakers, and private-sector companies, including a new partnership with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute to provide a policy-focused, professional and leadership development curriculum, Foundations of Latino Leadership, for their interns and fellows.


Proven Outcomes

The Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute becomes and remains the only endowed institute in the United States combining research and direct student support with a specific focus on elevating the Latino community.

These efforts result in a 100% retention rate for undergraduate scholars and a growing pipeline of Caminos students to top universities like Yale, Harvard, and GW. The Institute launches Diálogos Hispanos, bringing top Hispanic/Latino leaders like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and US Congressman Joaquin Castro to campus. The Institute also partners with affiliate faculty to bring top academics on issues relevant to the Latino community to GW for special lectures and events, as well as hosting special events like the Puerto Rico Summit and the Immigration Film Festival.


Expanding the Vision

Along with the rest of the world, the Cisneros Institute has to quickly adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic. Latinos are among the most vulnerable in our communities during this time, so the Institute increases its student support, research on the well-being of Latinos, and efforts to ensure responses are culturally competent by training faculty and staff at universities on best practices for working with Latinos. Despite these difficulties, the Institute celebrates the first graduating cohort in May 2020 with a virtual graduation celebration.

During this same period, the Institute began increasing the participation of undergraduate students in both self-guided projects and sponsored research with the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. The Institute also welcomes a new cohort of fellows focused on research and leadership and co-sponsors the launch of the Im/migrant Well-Being Scholar Collaborative.

2024-Year 10!

Looking to the Future

As the Cisneros Institute approaches our 10-year anniversary in 2025, we continue to leverage culturally competent leadership and research to advance the Hispanic/Latino community in the United States. Be on the lookout for our upcoming speaker series on the Latinos and the 2024 election and our decennial celebration in October 2025.

Before then, you can keep up to date with our programs and the success of our scholars, and find opportunities to support Latinx success by subscribing to our newsletter.

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