Born in Madrid, Spain, Dr. Ángel Cabrera attended the Polytechnic University of Madrid and graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer and electrical engineering. He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology on a Fulbright scholarship, where he earned a Ph.D. Cabrera then returned to Spain and began his journey into higher education administration, starting at the IE Business School in Madrid.
He taught at IE Business School from 1998 to 2004, and during four of those six years, he served as dean. Prior to becoming president at George Mason University in 2012, Cabrera was president of the Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. He says he is the first native of Spain to lead an American university.
Entering his sixth year as GMU president, his tenure was marked by campus growth as well as the development of new programs for the university’s incredibly diverse student body. He says the school has been recognized as the largest public research university in the state of Virginia.
As president, Cabrera takes pride in the moments that may be not be the most monumental but are the most meaningful.
“My proudest moments tend to be not so much the big things, but to hear our graduates, even people who are first generation in their family to go to college and to see them succeed and come back and tell their stories,” he says. “It’s really, really remarkable to meet some of our amazing alumni who are doing incredible things. Those are the moments that make me the proudest, not so much the most visible things we do.”
He says ensuring access to education for students is what inspires him.
“I have personally experienced what an education can do to open doors,” says Cabrera. “I am the first Spanish native to run an American university. I have run two institutions in the U.S., and I’ve done things in my career that would’ve been just crazy to even imagine when I was growing up. All of that was possible because I had access to great universities and people invested in my education. … So, just to think that I can play a role in providing some of those opportunities to others, that’s where the passion comes from.”
During Hispanic Heritage Month, we are recognizing Hispanic leaders in the Academy. The article originally appeared in the September 21, 2017 issue of Diverse magazine.