Dr Marla Franco wearing a black suit jacket with a red shirt and white sparkling necklace. She is standing in front of a background of greenery.

CFSA Honors Dr. Marla Franco with Civic Leadership Award

CFSA will honor Dr. Marla Franco, Assistant Vice Provost for Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Initiatives at the University of Arizona, as the recipient of their 2021 Southern Arizona Civic Leadership Award. She will receive her award at CFSA’s Annual Event.

Created in 2016, CFSA’s Civic Leadership Award honors members of the community who have gone above and beyond to make Southern Arizona a more inclusive and welcoming place to live. These nominees must inspire others through either their work, volunteerism, or advocacy efforts with diverse or underrepresented communities. Each year, nominations are submitted by anyone familiar with the nominee, and a review committee appointed by CFSA determines the recipient among the nominees.

Dr. Franco has created a lasting impact on the Southern Arizona community through her work at the University of Arizona. In her nominating letter, Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, Associate Vice Provost, Faculty Development at the University of Arizona, shared, “Dr. Franco leads passionately and compassionately, always bringing great understanding of the communities she serves. She does so because she intentionally immerses herself in the community, working with and for the community.”

Dr. Franco serves as the Assistant Vice Provost for Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Initiatives at the University of Arizona, having led efforts towards the UA becoming federally recognized as an HSI in 2018. She is the recent founder of the AZ HSI Consortium, aimed at fostering partnerships and leveraging resources across all 16 HSIs in Arizona, and co-founder of the STEM in HSI Working Group, aimed at bringing greater equity in STEM at HSIs. Throughout her 20-year career in higher education Dr. Franco has been a fierce advocate for educational access and building and sustaining culturally affirming learning and work environments.

During the pandemic alone, Dr. Marquez Kiyama shared Dr. Franco lead distribution efforts of $2.3 million in CARES Act Funding, prioritizing aid for the campus food pantry, increasing laptop and hotspot lending inventory, reinvesting in on-campus student employment, and supporting technology access and college outreach to Native Nations.

With a history of civic leadership, Dr. Franco also launched the HSI Fellows program in 2018, a one-year cohort-based professional development and mentoring program for UA faculty and staff, as well as champions students with DACA status through fundraising designated to offset their elevated tuition costs. In the past year, Dr. Franco raised $160,000 to support greater access for the DACA community.

Speaking on her leadership over the past twenty years, Dr. Franco reflected, “What an honor it has been to be embraced by the Southern Arizona community and work alongside so many to advance educational equity and inclusion.”

It is leaders like Dr. Franco who allow Southern Arizona to continue driving to be a vibrant and welcoming community for all. Mark Montoya, CFSA’s Interim President & CEO, shared, “Dr. Franco has demonstrated true inspirational and inclusive leadership here in Southern Arizona through her work and advocacy for educational access and equity.”


To learn more about the Civic Leadership Award and see a complete list of past recipients, please visit cfsaz.org/awards.