Feature Story: Dr. Adelina Silva – Aiming Higher for Higher Education

Dr. Adelina Silva

Vice Chancellor for Student Success for ACCD

by Meredith Kay

“Paying It Forward One Student at a Time”

As the Vice Chancellor of Student Success for the Alamo Community College District, Dr. Adelina Silva is tasked with developing programs that focus on a student’s unique talents and strengths. She grew up in Kenedy, Texas, and her family moved to San Antonio just before she started high school. Moving from such a small town to a big city opened her eyes to opportunities that she hadn’t known existed, and she uses her background to spot potential leaders in the students that she mentors.

When she talks about how her own life experiences help her to relate and be responsive to students’ needs, she states, “Every day I get to meet and help students just like me, and it’s so fulfilling to know that I am paying it forward.”

Throughout her upbringing, her parents instilled in her a strong work ethic and a respect for education. Young Adelina often helped her father with his construction math and bookkeeping. Following high school, Dr. Silva received a scholarship to attend San Antonio College, where she met Maxine Stigman, her admissions officer. Maxine inspired her to continue her education and ultimately seek a career in higher education at ACCD. Dr. Silva says, “Maxine was my mentor before mentors were cool. She guided me in my early educational years, but she never told me what to do.” 

While attending SAC, Dr. Silva was offered a job by Maxine to be the department’s admissions assistant, and she immediately excelled. She completed her A.A. degree in one year and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&I Corpus Christi. She moved back to San Antonio after graduation to take a job as a teacher at her alma mater, McCollum High School. Dr. Silva was just 21 when she started teaching and says that she was often mistaken as one of the students by the faculty.

She continued her education, commuting to U.T. Austin, where she received her doctorate degree in Educational Administration in Community College Leadership. She became a Fulbright Scholar while developing student-focused programs for non-traditional students as an inspirational administrative leader with ACCD. 

Dr. Silva advanced rapidly and became the first Hispanic female Vice Chancellor, and has pioneered programs that are still serving students today. Early in her career, she created the Women’s Center and developed community education centers off-campus in underserved areas of town. 

Dr. Silva developed the Alamo Advise Model that empowers students to see their education through to a degree program. She created the Student Leadership Institute, now in its 20th year, which is a three-tiered system that takes students through leadership courses, gives them tools to implement what they’ve learned in a lab setting, and provides scholars the opportunity to put their skills into action through collaborative team projects. Over 1,500 students have gone through the program since its inception and accepted the “Leadership Challenge.”

Dr. Silva has been a key leader in the growth and success of ACCD for 46 years. Her accomplishments are many, and she was inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame. She says, “Retention is more important than recruitment. We must always remain nimble in our responses so that we can always meet the changing needs of our students.” She strives every day to live by these principles, encouraging students to become whatever they dream they can be, just as her parents and her mentors did for her as a young student.

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