Gatepost Interview: Jorge Gonzalez – Incoming assistant director of student development

Donald Halsing / THE GATEPOST

What is your educational background?

I got my undergraduate degree over at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. I got a Bachelor of Arts in politics while I was there. And then – a little while later – I went to Merrimack College and I got my master’s in higher education administration in an accelerated one-year program. 

You previously worked at Bridgewater State University. What was your role there?

I was there for about two years and two months as their Coordinator for Student Programs. I advised this organization called “Program Counsel,” or their programming board. It would be their version of SUAB. I would help advise them on everything in the event process, their budget, and all that good stuff, to ensure there was a full campus calendar of events. We would average roughly around 60 events a year. The goal was always three events a week. I would also be a big part of ensuring major campus traditions would occur. I would have a lot of hand in helping plan their spirit week, which is a week full of events including their homecoming pageant, different showcases and talent shows, and things like that – and then their homecoming and family day fair where they combined their family day and their traditional homecoming. It’s a day-long thing where we had thousands of people showing up.

Why did you come to FSU?

I had been there for a bit – at Bridgewater – and I was looking for the next step up. The opportunity arose, but what drew me here was to be able to work with the state-school population. Also, what drew me here – as I did more and more research – is you all have a good reputation of being a school with passionate people and kind people, but also value diversity and inclusion, which is something – as a Latino professional in higher education – that I’m craving in my work environment.

What do you think of the University’s hiring of two Latina administrators?

Based on my brief research and my small experience here, I think it’s an incredibly positive thing. Representation at an institution is something of crucial importance, and also putting your money where your mouth is when talking about inclusion. I think you see at other schools it’s kind of lip service, but to actually hire people and be dedicated to that mission is, I think, something that looks promising. 

What do you plan to focus on at FSU?

My main role would be supporting clubs and organizations, so I’ll be advising a few of those. I’ll act as an advisor to SUAB, as well as overseeing the office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development. My goal is to observe and see what things we do incredibly strong, and get myself integrated into that, and then start examining where our opportunities are for growth. So, “Are we missing certain types of programming? Do we need to react more to a campus culture that’s going this way?” things of that nature.

Do you have any short- or long-term goals?

The onboarding process – people might think it’s only one week – but when you really think about it, I’m getting used to your big, major campus traditions. In six months, I want to be fully integrated and be able to do things almost second nature, or at least be able to know where to point people to.  If we’re going more long term, it’s looking at where we’re successful in our programs, what new advisement styles we can introduce to the campus community, and how can we make things more efficient and more fiscally responsible as well. And also, how do we boost student satisfaction in those regards? Additionally, SILD is dedicated to career readiness, so it is making sure the experiences here are connected to that career readiness, so that when you leave here, you can point to your involvements and say, “Hey, that helped me in my future job.” 

Do you think state college programs help prepare students for working in a professional environment?

I think if there’s an intentional involvement within the programs – yes, whether it’s involvement, or different leadership development opportunities. I remember there was a study done by Gallup, that employers are actually looking for involvement at a really high rate of influence. The top things that they look at are your GPA and major, of course, but the next thing is they’re looking to see what involvements you have and how that would translate. What happens is in the clubs and organizations, you learn leadership development, how to work on a team, how to collaborate, public speaking, budget, things of that nature. While that might seem small in the moment, it actually has really big impacts later in life. They actually found that students who are involved are two times more likely to be satisfied in their career in the first five years. 

Do you have any hobbies or interests?

I kind of look at myself as a taco aficionado. I actually have an Excel sheet of taco places I go review with myself or friends in search of the best taco. I call it “Taco Watch.” Other than that, I love to go to live music: concerts, festivals, things like that. And, I am an avid pro-wrestling fan.

Do you have any advice for FSU students?

When you’re becoming involved, and you’re choosing what to be in, balance the quality versus the quantity of your involvement. That might sound counterintuitive, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I get involved in everything.” But what you need to actually be thinking about is, “What is this contributing to my experience and my future career goals or personal development?” It’s one thing to be involved in a hundred things at a level that you’re not getting your best, but it’s better to be involved in several things and really be exceptional. … Be intentional about everything, but also be happy in the present. The future is coming, regardless. So, provide the right amount of planning for that, but don’t forget to cherish the memories you have today.