As an undergraduate, did you ever think you’d be president of a university—or was that always the goal?
If someone would have told me back then that I would end up serving as a college president—in Montana!—I would have looked at them with very puzzled eyes. In fact, back then I do not even know whether the geographical distance or the professional aspiration would have appeared more farfetched for me. Nowadays I encourage students—particularly female students who tend to be more prone to doubting their talents—to look up and aim high to horizons that they cannot even dream.
You mentioned geographical distance—how far are we talking here?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, the first of four children. I was the first person in my family to go to college, but not because I was brighter or more hardworking than my parents. As a matter of fact, my mother was one of the most intelligent individuals I have ever met. The only difference between me and my parents is that someone gave me an opportunity to go to college. That experience was so transformational that I have devoted my life to ensuring that no other young man or woman is ever deprived of the opportunity because I know that education will change their lives, the lives of their families, and improve the communities they choose to live in.
How did UTA help you get to where you are today?
At UTA I learned the importance of adopting and embracing a student-first mentality. The responsiveness of faculty and administrators to student needs brought into focus for me how essential these relationships are for instilling confidence in students, particularly in first-generation students like me, who have very high hopes but also tons of questions about how to navigate the college years and a subsequent career.