Moises “Moi” Padilla, an immigrant from Mexico and a first-generation college graduate, has been named director of the Nebraska College Preparatory Academy.
Launched by the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2006, NCPA helps first-generation and low-income high school students achieve academic success and attend college. Funded primarily by grants and charitable contributions, every NCPA graduate in the last six years has gone on to college. Academy participants also have better college first-year retention and graduate rates than other university students.
Padilla was selected after a national search. His appointment was announced Feb. 27 by Amber Williams, assistant vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management.
“As a land-grant institution, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is committed to preparing first-generation, low-income students with the tools to achieve personal and professional excellence. NCPA is a testament of this commitment.” Williams said. “Moi’s education and professional accomplishments will contribute to his ability to lead successfully and immediately impact NCPA scholars.”
Born in Mexico, Padilla immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 5 years old. The family moved from El Paso, Texas, to Lexington, Nebraska, when Padilla was in the fifth grade. He is a graduate of Lexington High School and a Husker alumnus.
“Who would have thought that a kid from Mexico, who learned to speak English in Texas and graduated from high school in Nebraska, would get the opportunity to direct a program at a Big Ten university,” Padilla said. “This new position is most definitely an honor and I look forward to providing support — like so many people did for me — as we help these young scholars achieve success personally and academically.”
Padilla has worked at Nebraska since July 2013, serving in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services, and Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center.
As part of the admissions team, Padilla worked as an assistant director, developing recruitment and communication plans for several academic colleges and coordinated diversity recruitment efforts. He also helped initiate Spanish visit days on campus and led an initiative to translate the university’s admissions and financial aid materials into Spanish.
Padilla served as associate director with OASIS and the Gaughan Center. His duties included leading the OASIS student success program, a retention initiative designed to assist approximately 300 Huskers each year with transition to college life.
His professional experience also includes three years as a manager of student housing at Colorado State.
Honors earned by Padilla include the 2018 Spirit of Service Award from Nebraska’s Center for Civic Engagement; Outstanding Faculty/Staff Award from the UNL Define America Chapter (2018); and Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from El Centro at Colorado State (2013).
As director of the academy, Padilla will be responsible for daily NCPA operations, and the development, implementation and assessment of a strategic plan that supports the academic and social success of participating students.
The position supervises full-time staff, including mental health professionals, teachers, program associates and retention specialists at Grand Island High School, Omaha North Magnet, Omaha South Magnet, Winnebago High School, Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
The NCPA director reports to Williams and serves on the academic service and enrollment management leadership team.
The Nebraska College Preparatory Academy is unique as scholars participate from the eighth grade through high school, working with counselors, teachers and other school staff to support academic success. It’s also academically rigorous — requiring that students take advanced courses and maintain a 3.25 grade point average through high school — offers expanded access to summer school, college camps, tutoring, leadership development, community involvement and counseling.
Students who complete the program earn significant financial assistance that covers the direct cost of attending the University of Nebraska–Lincoln or Metropolitan Community College.
Padilla will start in the new role on April 1. His goal is to shape NCPA into a national model for college access.
“I believe this program — which closes the gap between recruitment and retention of students who are ethnically diverse, come from low-income families or are first-generation students — represents the future of higher education,” Padilla said. “It’s humbling to be named the leader of a program that has the opportunity to directly impact the lives of so many students and their families.
“I look forward to working with our team here at the university and in the schools across Nebraska as we assist future generations of Huskers achieve their college dreams.”