Andrew Sund at Heritage University is Working to Make Dreams Come True
Story By: Terri Williams
Andrew Sund, Ph.D., has always had a passion for improving the condition of Latinos and other underrepresented segments of the population. Although “Sund” may not be a very Latino-sounding name, rest assure, he hails from Hispanic culture.
“I was born in Venezuela of an American father and Chilean mother,” he explains. “I grew up in Venezuela, Chile, and Mexico.” And his professional career has consisted largely of addressing issues with Latinos and higher education.
Before assuming the helm at Heritage University, Dr. Sund was President of St. Augustine College in Chicago. He says he wasn’t seeking employment elsewhere but discovered that Heritage was searching for a president. Sund liked the opportunity of working at Heritage because it offers more programs, including graduate degree programs, and he thought he would enjoy the professional challenges of being a president in a new environment. “I threw my name in the hat and went through a thorough search process, and was chosen.” In July of 2017, he became only the 3rd president of the university which was founded in 1982.
Heritage University is located on the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation. “But it’s not a tribal college, it’s open to all people and right now enrollment is 68% to 69% Latino students as a result of families that settled as migrant workers and now are permanent workers.”
Sund says he was always aware of the inequities – poverty and lack of opportunities – that impact the Latino community. “I met many people who were working toward solving this, through political work or community activism, but I was really touched by the concept that education was the great equalizer.”
He believes that education is unique because it provides the opportunity to impart knowledge and skills without trying to control the direction of a student’s life. “Also, these tools and credentials make a difference in not only their lives, but the lives of their families, subsequent generations, and positively changes the community.”
While Sund applauds the strides in Latino participation in higher education, he says, “We are still far behind where we should be in terms of people with post-secondary credentials and this applies in every single area.” Sund says there is a need for more people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but also in leadership positions since the number of Latinos in leadership is lower than it was 10 years ago. And, he wants to continue diversifying the staff and faculty at Heritage to create more opportunities for Latinos to work in higher education.
Some of Sund’s other goals include connecting in a stronger way with the Latino community in the Yakima Valley. “Even though Latinos are the majority of the students here, there are far more we could serve if they knew of the opportunities here.”
As immigrants and children of immigrants, he says Latinos often don’t view higher education as a part of their future. “To be honest, in our countries of origin, higher education was reserved for the elites, but now we live in a country in which most jobs that exist now and in the future require higher education, and we need our community to know that.”