Our History


"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
B.A. '94
Founder, Cisneros Institute

Gil Cisneros




2011 through 2016




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.





2016 through 2018



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.




2018 through 2020




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.