By Blace Carpenter
The Student Alliance held its weekly town hall meeting Thursday, Nov. 3, with special guest Grand Rapids Community College Interim President Juan Olivarez, answering student questions.
At the beginning of the meeting, Olivarez spoke about his past as president of GRCC from 1999 to 2008, and he shared how the college expanded from a junior college into a community college during his presidency.
“There was no research office, there was no IT Department, and so I came in and started those as a dean,” said Olivarez. “We grew tremendously. We were growing like a thousand students a year.”
Olivarez was president for almost 10 years and has been Interim president since the GRCC Board of Trustees appointed him in May. He said he is ready to find GRCC’s next president.
“How confident are you in the three candidates for the presidential search?” asked Student Alliance President Pablo Villalvazo.
“I feel really confident,” Olivarez said. “They went through a long process to get to the final three, and they are all well credentialed. They all have good experiences, and they all seem to engage with the community….If the board does not select somebody. My contract is that I’ll be here until somebody is selected.”
Olivarez and his wife Mary have achieved a lot for GRCC and Grand Rapids Public Education, with over 23 years of growing GRCC into the college we know today.
“When you were accomplishing all those things, were you thinking with a futuristic approach, or was it more staying in the moment and representing all those students?” asked Student Alliance External Affairs Director Shantasia King.
“You gotta have a plan,” Olivarez said. “Life takes twists and turns and all of that. And you have to be willing to understand that life is like that, and you have to roll with it sometimes.”
Olivarez said he believes that organizing and setting goals is the key to success as a college student, and noted the importance of knowledge and how furthering his education has opened several opportunities for him.
“The more education you have, the more doors open, don’t ever forget that,” Olivarez said. “Something my mother told me is that education is something that no one can take away from you. They can take all things away from you, but they can’t take away education, and that will serve you well through life.”