How I became one of the only Latina deans in the world of higher ed

By KYV Editorial Staff

Before the pandemic, political scientist and commentator Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, 44, never imagined she would take the helm of a major academic institution like the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas.

“I was an outsider to the world of higher ed,” the MSNBC and Telemundo contributor recently told Know Your Value. “The [academic] leadership pipeline for women is leaky and especially so for women of color.”

Indeed, the gender gap in academia remains wide. A recent investigation by the Eos Foundation and the American Association of University Women revealed that only 22 percent of higher education institutions had a woman at the top (president, chancellor, system head), despite the fact that there are more women earning PhDs today than men. In fact, one in five PhD earners is a woman color.

Nevertheless, by the start of 2020, Dr. DeFrancesco Soto strategized a way to the position, where she could have “maximum impact” as the first Latina dean of the esteemed presidential institution. Last month marked her first 100 days in the new role.