UW Majors: International Public Affairs; Educational
Leadership and Policy Analysis | Age: 35 | Ypsilanti, Michigan
Associate Professor Of Higher Education and Student Affairs, Eastern Michigan University
Through close-knit communities and global adventures, Raul Leon makes college a place where everyone feels
Leon studies student success, the role of chief diversity officers, and the impact of international and study-abroad experiences. He infuses this expertise throughout his work as a researcher, teacher, mentor, and world traveler.
“My motivation to excel is rooted in pursuing work that impacts my campus and community,” Leon says.
At Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Leon helped to create The Brother-HOOD (Helping Others Obtain Degrees) Initiative, a living-and-learning community that engages first-year underrepresented male students of color. The award-winning program has helped to foster a welcoming campus climate and boost retention rates, and it inspired The SisterHOOD, a similar program for female students.
Leon has long partnered with colleagues from UW–Madison, where as a graduate student he developed an interest in higher education and student affairs working with PEOPLE (Pre-College Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence). In 2012, with Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory, Leon was a lead organizer of the first International Research Colloquium on Black Males in Education, which works to improve educational policy and student experiences.
“My motivation to excel is rooted in pursuing work that impacts my campus and community.”
While at the UW, Leon also followed his passion to discover the world with a student job in international student services, international academic programs, and the international learning community. Today he guides a study-abroad program for his department at EMU, and he helps to organize educational tours to his home country through a family business, My Ecuador Trip.
Leon’s service and research excellence have earned him one of his university’s highest honors: he was the first professor in his department to receive EMU’s prestigious Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Award in its nearly 40 years.
“Above all, my time at the University of Wisconsin–Madison taught me that it was a privilege to obtain an education, and every day was an opportunity toapply what I was learning,” Leon says. “I am committed to providing the same kind of inspiration, mentorship, and leadership to those I interact with.”
Q&A with Raul
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I can think of a few that have been helpful, but there is one my father often repeated when I was growing up. I recall him saying “Para todo hay solución mijo, no se desespere, tranquilo. Ya veremos que hacer.” This roughly translates to “There is a solution for everything. Don’t rush or be frightened. Calm down, we will find a way.” I think this taught me to approach issues from many directions, reminded me to be calm when confronting problems, and also emphasized that my family was always there to support me.
What are you reading now?
Besides grading students’ work and reading dissertations and journal articles, the last book I read this year was Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things.
What is the one thing every UW student must do?
I think it will be to get ice cream at Babcock Hall Dairy. It has to be a priority!
What advice would you offer to graduating seniors?
Don’t be afraid to move to another city for a job, take time off to explore the country, or get to know people [by] traveling across the world. Your degree prepared you not only for a career, but for life. Graduation is just one milestone among many more opportunities to grow, learn, and discover your passions.
What occupies your free time?
I try to live an active lifestyle. I regularly swim at my local gym and still enjoy playing in a soccer league on the weekends.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t promise when you are happy, don’t reply when you are angry, and don’t decide when you are sad.” — Unknown
What lasting memories do you have of UW–Madison?
I remember riding my bike as a graduate student on University Avenue and then towards Camp Randall to get home during the summer. I have this lasting memory of the sun shining and a peaceful sensation. This always makes me think about being in a happy place. I recently visited Madison, and every time, I get that feeling when I am on [University Avenue].
Essay by Raul
Reflecting upon my time at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I have no doubt it had a direct impact on my life as an individual, a professional, and a citizen of the world. As a graduate student, I was challenged to work hard. I welcomed opportunities to collaborate with driven classmates, colleagues, and faculty, and I began to craft my own path, combining my interests, passions, and skills. Above all, my time at UW–Madison taught me that it was a privilege to obtain an education, and every day was an opportunity to apply what I was learning.
Today, as I reflect on my daily responsibilities, I can say without a doubt that the principles of the Wisconsin Idea are present on my work. My motivation to excel is rooted in pursuing work that impacts my campus and community — including teaching courses, applying for grants, creating international learning opportunities (www.myecuadortrip.com), and engaging in building campuswide initiatives for retention and student success at Eastern Michigan University. I am a product of the relationships and opportunities I encountered at UW–Madison. These interactions shaped how I build community — and more important, they provided me with solid foundations to understand organizational context and drive change. Both of my degrees from the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis Program prepared me to become a thoughtful leader, consider strategic approaches, and be comfortable working with multidisciplinary teams and organizations. I am thankful for each of these opportunities, and I am committed to providing the same kind of inspiration, mentorship, and leadership to those I interact with.