“In recent years the creation of MALFA, MALRC and the TAMHN has renewed
my hopes that A&M will to live up to its creed of honor, respect, excellence,
and the Aggie Spirit. The university’s achievement of true greatness
will be led by visionary global leaders, with the cultural and contextual intelligence,
capable of leading A&M into it’s inextricably and intertwined relationship
with the Hispanic and global community.“
Daniel R. Hernández, ‘73
Texas A&M’s Spirit of Aggieland
By Daniel R. Hernández
A Vision of Future Global Leaders
“The transformation of the Mind and Soul is a miracle of the moment and the making of a Leader is a journey of a lifetime.”
Texas A&M University with its land grant origin has transformed the lives of thousands of young men and women since its humble beginning as a military male only school filled with tradition, honor and pride. Its mission has been coupled with a unique quality called the “Aggie Spirit” whose service to the people of Texas has been galvanized into a university pursuing a world-class distinction and committed to educating professionals and global leaders.
My Early History with A&M
My first connection to A&M came as a result of my older brothers who were attending the university while I was in elementary school in Bryan. I remember my oldest brother, Mike, teaching me to “whip out” at the tender age of 6 years old. He had graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in Bryan until he was 21 years old because he had to work the cotton fields (as we all did) with our father. My brother was my first hero and mentor, and he did it with an Aggie theme coupled with my mother and father’s Christian foundation. It all made sense to me.
Aggies were special because we showed respect to each other through a relationship
called the “Aggie Spirit”. I learned the “Spirit
of Aggieland” early on in my life. It has always been a spiritual
uplift for me. I was so inspired by the song and the “Aggie Spirit” that
I began to sign my name in school, Daniel Hernández ’73, at nine
years of age. I tell this story because I am a product of a tradition
that reinforced my parent’s value of faith, education, respect, and honor
and excellence - character.
Though I came to A&M with these values instilled in me, what I actually experienced the first year was an environment of alienation that I did not expect or understand. I entered the university in 1969 when the identity of Hispanics was being negotiated across the nation and at our dinner tables. As a result I had to figure out what it meant to be an Aggie, Hispanic, American, Christian and a leader. The values my parents and brothers instilled in me disconnected me from A&M’s dominant white Anglo culture that did not recognize other cultures and the value they brought to the institution. This experience created a dilemma that led me and others to challenge the university’s cultural climate and provided us the opportunity to become founders of the MSC’s Committee on the Awareness of the Mexican American Culture (CAMAC).
In 1972 corps, civilian, male, female, engineer, liberal arts, agriculture
majors and others came together to address the cognitive dissonance we were
experiencing between the Spirit of Aggieland and our cultural alienation. While
we loved A&M, we saw inconsistencies between the campus environment and
climate, and the “Aggie Spirit” we believed promoted an acceptance
of all, regardless of our diverse cultures and ideas. A&M’s corps
white Anglo culture was not accepting of other cultures because it was designed
to be a “one fits all” community. The formation of CAMAC was
significant because it was the first Hispanic student organization on campus
with the mission of bringing A&M into a more global arena through its Hispanic
My experiences as a student, and later as the first Hispanic in the role of Assistant Director of Admissions; Affirmative Action Officer; Assistant General Counsel and Associate Vice Chancellor for Community Development, allowed me a bird’s eye view of some of the university’s major undertakings to enhance and expand the Hispanic leadership’s presence on campus. Furthermore, I am a founding member of the following on campus organizations: Professional Hispanic Network (PHN); Mexican American Latino Faculty Association (MALFA); Mexican American Latino Research Center, (MALRC) and the Texas A&M Hispanic Network (TAMHN). Each of these organizations through its dedicated membership have played a vital role in bringing A&M closer to its true mission and aspired world-class status.
A significant decision that started A&M’s quest to be inclusive occurred in 1974 when it created the position of Assistant Director of Admissions. I was fortunate to be the first person appointed to this position whose duties included reaching out to the Hispanic and African American students. In 1977 I was asked to present to the Academic Council (APC) (comprised of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. John Calhoun, and the Academic Deans) the concept of recruiting Hispanic and African American students to A&M for the purpose of ensuring the state’s future Hispanic and African American leaders would be Aggies loyal to the university and its ideals.
In my meeting with the APC I presented a map of Texas and showed the council that over 50% of the Hispanic and African American population resided within 250-mile radius of the university. I presented the demographic fact with a simple premise, “if we did not recruit these outstanding students, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and UT would.” The A&M administration responded and created the first Presidential Scholarship Awards for outstanding Hispanic and African American students across Texas.
Twenty-nine years later that same goal still is in the foreground as the increasing demographic rates of Hispanics expand across the state. FACT: 90% of the states’ population growth will come from Hispanic families. Now more than ever we must keep the focus on these future leaders because the Hispanic community will become the majority of the state in less than 25 years.
My Role as a Volunteer at A&M
In our current context, our challenge is to set free the Aggie Spirit throughout the growing Hispanic community. These students and families will respond because they want and expect their presence recognized, nurtured and integrated into the mainstream of the university’s life. These expectations require the A&M administration, faculty, and staff levels as well as academic and student programs to be culturally proficient to engage the Hispanic students and families as the future generations of Aggies. MALFA, MALRC, and TAMHN are also playing a vital role through their ongoing articulation to create an environment and cultural climate that is conducive to transforming A&M into a truly world class university. The bottom line, to be effective A&M must be relevant and reflect excellence in its relationships to its students’ diverse cultures and contributions.
Since my first introduction to A&M as a young child to the present I have been committed to my relationship to A&M. Throughout my 50 year journey my vision, as a brother of Aggies, student, administrator, former student, faculty member and parent of two Aggies, of the “Aggie Spirit” has meant a true welcoming and global community. My aspiration for the university has been excellence, and that is why I am untiring in my high expectations.
In recent years the creation of MALFA, MALRC and the TAMHN has renewed my hopes that A&M will to live up to its creed of honor, respect, excellence, and the Aggie Spirit. The university’s achievement of true greatness will be led by visionary global leaders, with the cultural and contextual intelligence, capable of leading A&M into it’s inextricably and intertwined relationship with the Hispanic and global community.
The latest major event in A&M’s journey was the TAMHN’s 2005 Fall Summit, and its January 2006 Hispanic Long Range Strategic Planning Retreat. TAMHN in collaboration with the University administration, MALFA and PHN, embarked on a historic venture of creating a Hispanic Long Range Strategic Plan designed for the first time to lay out a vision with coordinated strategies of how A&M will proceed and truly integrate Hispanics into the entire life and culture of the institution. These events, unparalleled in the university’s history, are the continuing road map to its future as a world-class university.
The resulting paradigm shift generated from the Long Range Strategic Plan must continue to be made so that within the next 5-10 years, the quantum leaps we are capable of making will become real. The constant theme at the retreat was the University’s need to transform the cultural climate and environment to one that defines itself as inclusive, culturally mobile, intellectually honest, transparent and accountable in meeting its stated goals.
A bright future will truly be ours as we create an institution that builds on its original mission of service to others, which results in an integrated and inclusive environment. There are little boys and girls hearing about A&M for the first time, across Texas and the world, as I did at home from my brother Mike.
The experience of the Spirit of Aggieland is a miracle of the moment, and the making of a world-class institution is a journey of a lifetime. This tradition must continue so the state, nation and world can experience the Aggie Spirit that transcends all economies, cultures, languages and political systems. Let the journey continue.
What A&M Needs To Do To Become a World Class University
TAMU’s successful journey into the future will be determined by the internal self-evaluation/analysis of its relationships and identity. The university’s identity, who are we and what does it mean to be an “Aggie,” will determine the institution’s willingness to become culturally intelligent/competent and how it relates to the environmental changes in the demographically changing global economy.
A&M needs to become intellectually honest and culturally intelligent/competent to understand its history culture, symbols, processes, logic, relationships and identity in relationship to the world. The imagination of what is A&M cannot occur while it remains culturally, intellectually and socially isolated from the very world it wants to compete and live in. To this end, there is a need to reframe how the institution processes this information (history, culture, symbols etc) about itself and change the filters it uses to process new information. A&M’s challenge is for its leaders is to practice the following intelligences:
Existential – ability to see ourselves now and
in the long term, long range value of our relationships, actions, plans, decisions
Interpersonal – ability to see in others what matters to them, why it matters to them; their world views and develop a relationship of trust.
Intrapersonal – understanding the elements (history, culture, symbols etc) that comprise our worldviews.
Emotional – ability to manage our emotions so we can create a safe place for ourselves and others.
Spiritual – ability to see the sacred value in others’ history, culture, symbols etc.
Human systems – understand what, how and why we all belong to some organized groups, tribes, communities
Ethical moral – knowing the right thing; doing the right thing right, at the right time
Contextual – understand how to respond in a changing environment using the relevant and effective skills sets to create a safe and trust based relationship that add value.
What is A&M’S Nacio?
Nacio is a concept that addresses who we are and why we are the persons/institutions we are in relationship to others. The word comes from the root word natio that means nation in Latin. Like a nation our nacio has borders, histories, cultures, symbols, logic, processes, relationships, and an identity (ies). These 6 elements of our nacio form a basis for our fears, biases, status, power, and ethics/morals. We must understand the elements in ourselves before we can seek to understand others’ nacio. In order to achieve this understanding we must go to a safe place that allows us to examine others and ourselves from a neutral place that seeks to understand, not judge, seek to add value and not attack.
The 6 Elements in A&M’s Nacio that Determines its Identity
History – What and where have we been; events
that have occurred in the life of the institution and people that have lived
Culture – how we do things; what we do unconsciously, what are our assumptions, language used;
Symbols – the intrinsic physical/artificial things that say who we are and what matters to us
Logic – how we make sense of what we believe and do
Process – How / what rules, practices, procedures or policies we employ and follow to accomplish what matters to us
Relationships – whom do we relate to and who is within our network of stakeholders
Identity – who do we believe we are and what defines us
The ability to reach a safe/neutral place in our emotional selves provides us the environment that will allow all concerned (ourselves and others) to change and adjust for the purpose of adding value. This is called “nacio exiting.” While we are in this safe/neutral place we can seek to understand the 6 elements in others and ourselves. More specifically we are able to examine our experiences that lead to our language that precede our ideas which form the assumptions that serve as a basis for our conduct and result in our culture. The process of examination continues through an assessment of the culture that precedes the traditions and rituals that give meaning to who we are in this world.
A&M must experience a nacio exiting experience so it can move from “what is” to what can be. Quantum leaps will result once A&M exits the borders of its nacio to seek to understand itself and others for the purpose of adding value as an institution of higher education in a continuously changing environment that has no borders. Ultimately, we will become a world-class university that can create leaders through its ability to absorb, process and manage information, cultures and economies at the speed of change.