SDCCD chancellor Carlos O. Turner Cortez received the 2022 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award in San Diego on March 7 photo courtesy SDCCD.

The American Council on Education recognized San Diego Community College District chancellor Carlos O. Turner Cortez, as the recipient of the 2022 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award.

The award is named in honor of the late Reginald Wilson, who served as senior scholar emeritus at ACE and was founding director of the Council’s Office of Minority Concerns and is presented annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions and demonstrated sustained commitment to diversity in higher education.

This award is sponsored by the University of California San Diego and was presented on March 7 at ACE2022, ACE’s Annual Meeting in San Diego. 

“Throughout his career as a teacher, principal, and higher education administrator, Carlos Cortez has been committed to equity, inclusion, and social justice,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “Working primarily with underserved, ethnically diverse student populations from low-income communities, he is a passionate leader and advocates for urban education reform. As higher education strives to create more equitable and just outcomes for all students, I can’t think of anyone better to receive this award.”

Before becoming chancellor of SDCCD in July 2021, Cortez served for six years as president of the San Diego College of Continuing Education one of SDCCD’s four colleges. While there, he helped expand the San Diego Promise, which provides graduating high school seniors with a two-year college scholarship plus textbooks, to serve adult learners who complete programs at SDCCE, creating the only Promise program in California for low-income adults students. 

He also helped launch the San Diego Gateway to College and Career learning community serving students involved with the justice system, homeless students, former foster youth, and students with disabilities, through paid internships, counseling, grants, and scholarships. 

“I am deeply honored to receive the 2022 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award,” Cortez said. “My father was a factory worker and union member who moved to Connecticut from Puerto Rico. My mother was a teacher of special education. Both emphasized the importance of education and giving back to our community. They instilled in me a deep commitment to promoting education as a pathway to opportunity.”

Cortez began his career in education as a Teach for America Corps member. His experience spans the public, private, and charter school sectors in Washington DC, Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Diego.

He received his Bachelor’s degree in history and sociology from Georgetown University; a Master’s degree in race and gender politics from New York University; and his Ph.D. in education policy and administration from the University of Southern California. All three degrees focus on African American feminist political history.