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 was endowed in 2015 by Gilbert Cisneros, CCAS BA ’94, and his wife Jacki Cisneros. Initially focused on undermatching,* Gil and Jacki realized that even when students enroll in a university like GW, they do not have the same resources and support throughout their college years. Armed with this insight, they pledged to increase the enrollment of students with a dedicated commitment to the Hispanic community and create a dedicated environment that would ensure they thrive as GW students. 

Daniel Martinez served as Interim Director, while a national search was launched that brought Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera to GW in 2016. 

*when high achieving students, typically from low-income and minority backgrounds, do not apply to and enroll in competitive universities.


Building Student Support

Translating best practices and contemporary research on Latinos in the United States into academic programming and culturally competent  student support, the Cisneros Institute has become the only endowed institute in the United States offering comprehensive support to and through a student’s years at GW. Current initiatives include the Caminos al Futuro pre-college summer program, the Cisneros Scholars cohort program, and Foundations of Latino Leadership, a curriculum-based leadership development and professional skills training.


Expanding the Vision

Under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera, the Cisneros Institute also includes a research portfolio that brings together university scholars and researchers across all disciplines to support and elevate research related to the Institute’s four priorities. Externally, the Cisneros Institute partners with nonprofits, policymakers and private-sector companies in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, to inform and advance issues of impact in the Latino community.