The HTI Story
Two decades prior to the Hispanic Theological Initiative’s (HTI) inception, the Fund for Theological Education (FTE), now the Forum for Theological Exploration, implemented two programs that supported 198 Hispanic Students at the master’s-level for ministry, and at the doctorate level. In 1986, The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) provided FTE with a planning grant for Dr. Justo González, along with an advisory team, to conduct a study titled, “The Theological Education of Hispanics,” which was published in 1988. This study was pivotal for Pew’s philanthropic strategy in supporting Hispanic Americans in religious and theological education.
After a Pew study conducted by Dr. Luis Rivera-Pagán and Dr. Rosendo Urrabazo in 1994, Pew decided to withdraw its funding for Hispanic students, yet, Joel Carpenter and Rev. Danny Cortes, then Pew Director and program officer of religion programs, were committed to establishing a new program to develop leaders for the church and the academic community.
Using a planning grant to conduct a new needs assessment study and design process, they hired Dr. Edwin Hernádez to lay the groundwork for the Pew Hispanic Scholarship Study, and with the support of the advisory team including Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Dr. Justo González, Dr. Allan Figueroa-Deck, Dr. David Maldonado, Dr. Olga Villaparra, Dr. Ana Maria Pineda, and Dr. Sarita Brown, they wrote the study titled, The Future of Hispanics Graduate Theological Education. In 1995, Hernández submitted to Pew a grant proposal for the Hispanic Theological Initiative. HTI was launched at Emory University under the directorship of Dr. Justo González and Dr. Daisy Machado with a $3.5 million grant, which was renewed in 2001, and a final grant in 2005 for $1.8 million. In the fall of 1996, HTI awarded its first fellowships.
collaboratively with a variety of advisors, mentors, and editors to develop and maintain the unprecedented completion rate of 94% with an average time to degree of 5.5 years.
New Place, Same Vision
In 1999, HTI was relocated to Princeton Theological Seminary and Dr. Zaida Maldonado Pérez became its new director. During Pérez’s tenure, she introduced the HTI Book Prize and also Latinas in Theology. From 2002 to present, the Rev. Joanne Rodríguez, executive director, has worked collaboratively with a variety of advisors, mentors, and editors to develop and maintain the unprecedented completion rate of 94% with an average time to degree of 5.5 years.
In 2003, HTI $888,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., and in 2007, 17 PhD-granting institutions launched the HTI consortium to expand the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Latinx PhD students. Today the Consortium stands at 24 members. In 2010, HTI was awarded the Examples of Excelencia Award at the graduate-level from ¡Excelencia in Education!, catapulting the HTI vision and model into the larger landscape of education in the United States. Since then, HTI is known as the “411 Hub” for Latinx theological and religious resources, and is relied upon by presidents, deans, faculty, and students for resources and networks. In 2011, HTI received a $400,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to provide fellowships to post-comprehensive examination/ dissertation HTI scholars.
HTI celebrated its 20th anniversary with a corporate gift of $100,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and entered its 21st year with a $1.5 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., which provided ten $25,000 dissertation fellowships to students yearly for the following five years.
The legacy of HTI continues to forge forward as we have recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the institution. The reception for this monumental occasion in HTI history was commemorated with the announcement of a $7.3 million grant from the Lilly Endowment. The partnership between the two has remained strong over the past years and continues to emphasize the importance of Hispanic and Latinx perspectives in the biblical and theological study for the advancement of the field entirely. The supporting contributors of HTI join the legacy of building up Hispanic and Latinx leaders in the Church, academy, and world for the next 25 years and beyond.