Esperanza College was birthed from a tugging at the heart to impact the lives of people beyond the Sunday morning pulpit. It was, and is, a college unique to any other; an institution of redemption, grace, and hope. This tug was felt by a group of Hispanic pastors in North Philadelphia in 1982 as they rallied together to serve a community suffering from poverty, unstable housing, low educational attainment, and high crime. The result was the creation of the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia. In 1987, they developed a non-profit organization called Nueva Esperanza Inc.
In 1996, Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr., President of Esperanza, began earnestly working on his vision to have a college within the neighborhood. After visiting many colleges and universities, he finally met with the president of Eastern University, Dr. David Black. Both visionaries, they initiated the planning of a partnership between Eastern University and Esperanza. The result was a junior college called Nueva Esperanza Center for Higher Education (NECHE). At that time Rev. Luis Cortes and President David Black formed an advisory body designed to develop the partnership with both institutions' best interests in mind. The College Council has been a policymaking and guiding hand that over the years has led the development of Esperanza College from its initial stages as a program to becoming an established branch campus of Eastern University. Over the years the Council has hired deans who could move this vision forward. In addition, Rev. Danny Cortes has served as Chairman of the Council and is currently on the Eastern University Board of Trustees.
The first cohort, made up of 28 students, was admitted in the Fall of 2000 with a special and unique curriculum that served the language needs of the Latino students while still being couched within the academic integrity of Eastern University’s CORE curriculum. Midway through its first decade, Eastern University Senior Vice President Dr. Tom Ridington was assigned as university liaison in order to help NECHE accelerate its growth and development. In that role, he was able to transition NECHE from a center to Esperanza College, attain MSCHE accreditation as a university branch campus, achieve HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) status with the USDOE and secure Esperanza College’s first federal Title V grant of $2.1 million for expanded academic programming and campus facilities.
Dr. Sara Miles Pictured on left
Dean of Esperanza College, 2002-2005
In July 2002, Dr. Sara Miles was appointed as founding Dean of Nueva Esperanza Center for Higher Education. Dr. Miles, from Eastern University, helped to establish the college, align it with Eastern University curriculum and vision, and build the number of faculty and students.
A significant milestone during the Fall of 2002 was the approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Eastern University to award the Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Studies to NECHE students. This degree began with two concentrations: Business and Communication. By the Fall of 2003, word had quickly spread of a college in the community, thus attracting a more diverse group of students. The curriculum was adjusted to suit the needs of non-Hispanic students. Up to this point, all classes were only available in the evenings, but by the following year day classes were added, attracting graduating high school seniors.
The need for grant money was imperative in order for the college to grow, both in terms of academics and physical space. In a joint effort, Dr. Miles and Eastern University leaders applied for Title V funds. Once again a leap of faith was taken, as the organizations applied for one of the most nationally competitive grants, one that helps institutions better serve Hispanic students. In 2005 Dr. Miles retired just before learning that Eastern University would become the recipient of the prized Title V funds. NECHE was the smallest institution to ever be awarded these funds.
Dr. Jack Weaver
Dean of Esperanza College, 2005-2009
In 2005, Dr. Jack Weaver became the Dean. The baton could not have landed in the hands of a better leader nor at a better time, as Dr. Weaver brought years of experience in engineering to his new role. With Title V funding secured, he was charged with supervising the infrastructure as well as remodeling and furnishing the new college wing.
Along with new infrastructure came a new name, and in 2005 NECHE became Esperanza College of Eastern University, as we know it today. During this time the Pennsylvania Department of Education gave Eastern University two significant recognitions. First, it was given the status of Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), the first such award given in the state of Pennsylvania. Also at that time, Esperanza College achieved branch campus standing. New academic concentrations in Early Childhood Education and Community and Human Services were introduced, with two academic specialists hired to lead their development. The library was established and a librarian was hired to build the book collection and set up the online catalog and database subscriptions in conjunction with Eastern’s main library. Services were expanded in the areas of financial aid and recruitment, with major development in enrollment taking place. In 2008 Dr. Weaver stepped down as Dean and transitioned into retirement, but he later returned to teach at Esperanza College.
Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier
Academic Dean, 2009-2018
In January 2009, Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, of Puerto Rican descent herself, accepted the position of Dean. Dr. Conde-Frazier has kept the momentum of growth and development that her predecessors started. Under her leadership, Esperanza College's enrollment stood at more than 200 students, bolstered by a significant increase in male attendance. The college has attracted highly qualified and diverse faculty from notable academic institutions. Purposeful mentorship from faculty, hand-selected by the Dean, has brought a new element of support and enthusiasm to the student body. It has also significantly affected retention efforts, resulting in the lowest withdrawal rates of freshmen.
A strong focus of Esperanza College has been student development and the continual improvement of services offered. In 2010, the college added a full-time Director of Student Life, which has allowed for special chapel services, special seminars (dubbed “Feminars”) for female students, Monday Morning Prayer meetings and the creation of special interest clubs. Enrollment continued to rise with the help of a more solidified Office of Enrollment and Marketing supported by the largest full-time staff in the school's history.
Since 2010, Esperanza College has added new classrooms, STEM labs, and a new student lounge. The additional spaces have provided for expansion of academic programs including Accounting, Criminal Justice, Medical Assisting and Natural Science.
Dr. David Hurtado
Dean of Administration and Program Development, 2015-Present
In 2015, Dr. David Hurtado joined Esperanza as the Dean of Administration and Program Development. In 2016, the college added an online Christian Ministry program and is working to expand into Digital Communication and Health Sciences.