BURBANK – Dr. Luis Calingo knows the numbers well. As a Filipino American, he knows he’s not supposed to be in this top position.
Though Asian Americans attain the highest levels of education amongst their peers, he says they are shunned often in high administrative university positions.
“There is a bamboo ceiling out there that somehow prevents Asian American professors to rise to the top,” he said.
The numbers back him up. Calingo broke through that proverbial bamboo ceiling this past July.
The University of the Philippines Diliman graduate was hired to become the 13th president of Woodbury University, a private college located in the heart of Burbank, California.
The 57-year-old is only the second Filipino American to head a higher education institution in the United States. The first is his good friend, Gabriel Esteban, also a UP Diliman graduate, who heads Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
“Before I became a university president there were only 20 university presidents of Asian American descent so we’re fortunate,” said Calingo.
“There is a bamboo ceiling but we took it upon ourselves to pierce it,” he added.
Calingo is an international expert in strategic planning and quality management. He is also a former tenured professor in the California State University system.
He admits it was never his intention to become a president of a US university. In fact, he was just an average student with a 2.56 grade point average after graduating from the University of the Philippines.
But with hard work and perseverance, he refocused on his academics. He received a masters at UP, a PhD at University of Pittsburgh and became a highly acclaimed professor in the US, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Calingo said he was attracted to Woodbury because of the school’s commitment to help students achieve academic success.
“Woodbury University has a long standing commitment to educating first generation college students, the first in their families to go to college--that is a commitment that I saw pervading in the institution,” he said.
His goal is to continue that legacy.
Calingo urged Filipino adults to mentor the young children in the community so they pursue higher education and become well-rounded students.