Describe your university in three words.
Empowered. Determined. Greatness.
What makes your university great?
A 175-year rich history, strengths in diversity and inclusion, distinctive excellence, career-making opportunities and a strong commitment to student success and the economic mobility of our students make UAlbany great. Our cutting-edge research, academic excellence, international impact and dedicated public engagement help translate knowledge into action to make a real difference in the world. We empower our students, faculty, and staff to author their own success by making it possible for everyone to aspire to something greater.
What experience best prepared you to lead a public research university?
My personal background and experiences as a Latino or Puerto Rican, from a very humble economic background, have been defining factors in terms of how I view the role of institutions of higher education as well as the importance of student success. Further, my area of academic expertise and research focused on the socio-economic impacts of disasters has also influenced my approach to dealing with the issues and challenges that impact institutions of higher education.
Having been on the ground in the aftermath of several major disasters, I think I know what “real” disasters look like; how they impact individual lives and entire communities, and how we should prepare and respond to these events. This perspective has influenced the way in which I view emergencies, crises, and other issues that emerge on college campuses. These experiences also teach you the importance of preparedness, mitigation, communication, and teamwork, as well as the value of being action-oriented and proactive, rather than reactive.
Finally, as Interim President of UT Pan American, I had the unique opportunity to take a leadership role (with a group of colleagues) in consolidating two institutions of higher education, UT Pan American and UT Brownsville to create a new university – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), which also included building a School of Medicine from the ground up.
Collectively, this unique combination of experiences has prepared me to lead a major public research institution.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
When I do find myself with some down time, I like to explore new towns and cities with my wife Rosy. There is something oddly therapeutic about taking a long drive to a place we have never been before to discover the people, the character and personality of this new place, as well as the local cuisine. It truly allows me to disconnect, relax, and recharge – if only for a brief period of time.
What was the last thing you cooked or baked?
The things I most recently cooked were homemade waffles and a Spanish tortilla or omelet for my family. This is always a great opportunity to connect with family and to showcase my limited culinary skills.
If you could travel to one place you’ve never visited, where would it be and why?
Athough I’ve traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world, I have never visited Alaska. I would like to visit – with Rosy – what has been called the “Last Frontier” and have the opportunity to absorb the rich culture, explore the extensive mountain ranges, be inspired by the northern lights, and be awe-stricken by the towering glaciers – before we lose them forever.