As director of Community College Partnerships at UCLA, Herrera develops partnerships and faculty academic exchanges with California community colleges and helps students transfer to the University of California.
Herrera has worked on issues of admissions, student recruitment and retention since arriving on campus in 1981. Three years ago, he established the popular Summer Intensive Transfer Experience program, a six-day academic residential program for transfers that provides them with an insider's guide to UCLA.
Herrera knows all too well about society's low expectations of underrepresented students. As the fifth of six children born to a domestic housekeeper and an asphalt worker, Herrera never believed college was attainable.
"I would not have pursued an education if it weren't for that one counselor at my high school who literally filled out my application, drove me to the admissions office and paid my application fee," says Herrera, who held three jobs during college to pay for his education.
Herrera holds a bachelor's degree in behavioral science from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and a master's degree in public administration from California State University, Dominguez Hills. It was that act of selflessness by his high school counselor that led Herrera to a career in education.
"The belief that one person had in me inspired me to help others," says Herrera, who decided early on to focus on community colleges.
"In order for us to gain parity in higher education institutions, we have to start at the community college level because that is where the low-income population of qualified Latinos, African Americans and others are enrolled," says longtime friend and Congresswoman Hilda Solis, D-California, who met Herrera when they were both students at Cal Poly Pomona. "Alfred is one of the few people in this country who understand the critical role community colleges play."
Outside of UCLA, Herrera has devoted much of his energy to a 15-year fight to give undocumented students access to higher education. He co-founded with Solis and others a network of professionals who lobbied legislators and educators for a bill in support of a court case known as "Leticia A," which pushes to allow undocumented students to pay in-state fees at CSU and community colleges.
Just last month, Herrera was invited to witness the governor's signing of AB-540. Now the lobbying campaign is focused on UC.
"It's so refreshing to know that the UC has someone as talented and experienced as Alfred," Solis says, "who makes it his personal agenda to help those who are less fortunate."