Auraria Higher Education Center - Founding Faculty

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When the Colorado State Assembly first envisioned a three tier multi-university setting in downtown Denver they hoped for colleges to collaborate on not only the physical plant but also the students, staff, faculty and curriculum. What seemed like a good money saving idea at the time has yet to be resolved.
At the onset of the creation of the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) more than 3,000 low-income educationally under-served people (mostly Chicanos) were displaced, many lived in dilapidated homes that were paid for. Subsequently, upon the displacement no substitute homes were built nor were any forms of assistance forthcoming this became a centrifuge for the Chicano Movement. Similar displacement where occurring simultaneously throughout the American Southwest: 5,000 Chicanos were displaced in Chavez Ravine to build the stadium for the Los Angeles Dogers; 2,500 Chicanos were displaced to build the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan/Chicano Park and the AHEC project added to the negative psyche Chicanos were all at once developing as a collective consciousness.
  Auraria Higher Education Center, Denver, CO
Armando Arias, Ph.D., Founding Planning Faculty
It was under these political environs that Dr. Arias was experiencing when at the same time his own family members had been displaced in Barrio Logan. Add to this the further estrangement of colleges and universities across this nation for educationally under-served Chicanos and the gap between the "town and gown" continued to widen. For Chicanos institutions of higher education were physically and psychologically out of reach.
So at a time when Dr. Arias was relocating from UC San Diego where he was completing the work for his Ph.D. in Social Psychology at a tumultuous time in the history of his own campus, he took a tenure-track faculty position at the University of Notre Dame University, was driving through Denver, and his community activist consciousness took over, and he never made it to Notre Dame. Rather, Dr. Arias began volunteering at the Escula Tlaltelolco a Chicano high school in order to prepare Chicano student to enter the university.
Within a matter of months, Dr. Arias was able to secure a faculty position as a faculty planner at Metropolitan State University in order to help build out a common curricular structure between three tiers of institutions in the form of AHEC.
In response to the inaction, on behalf of the Colorado State Assembly to provide some form of assistance to the many Chicanos forcibly removed from their homes in downtown Denver, Dr. Arias provided leadership in the formation of a non-profit housing advocacy organization that in addition to advancing affordable housing opportunities for low-income communities, also increased diversity in the affordable housing and community development field via an internship program.   
This internship program helped jump-start promising careers in affordable housing and community development for historically underrepresented and traditionally marginalized undergraduate students in the Denver region. 
And in his capacity as a planning faculty member at AHEC, Dr. Arias and his colleagues successfully initiated a scholarship program specifically aimed at providing educational opportunities for members of families that were displaced in the build out of AHEC.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalAssembly Bill - Assembly, State of Colorado
StatePublished - 1993


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