Kalamazoo, New York, Philadelphia, and beyond: President Dr. Jorge Gonzalez is a traveling man. Between meetings and flights, Kalamazoo College’s new president sat down with The Index for an interview to open the academic year.
Having recently embarked on his “Listening Tour,” President Gonzalez has taken the opportunity to learn and understand K’s culture from the voices of faculty, staff, students, and communities throughout the United States.
The tour is “busy but exciting,” the President described, continuing, “but I get to hear from [others] and learn what makes K special. It’s the right thing to do.”
President Gonzalez asserted that, “it is arrogant for a new president at any institution to [arrive] and suddenly decided what the [College’s] vision should be. Any new leader who does that is destined to fail.”
“There are people at K who understand its history, what works, and what doesn’t,” the President remarked, explaining that his job now is to build upon the existing and cohesive vision of the college.
So what will K look like in 10 years?
“K’s fundamental values will remain the guiding principles for the College,” he affirmed, telling of the dedication to K’s liberal arts education, experiential learning, and openness to students of all backgrounds.
“Experiential learning—study abroad, civic engagement, internships and externships, social justice involvement—is what makes K special.”
President Gonzalez speaks of the multiplier effect—common to his educational background, Economics—seeing his role as an administrator as a way to work toward his lifelong interest in poverty reduction.
“I can help providing opportunities for hundreds of people to [go out into the world] and solve problems,” the President explained.
His advice to students? Engage fully with the aforementioned opportunities available at K.
“Students come to K not simply to take classes but to engage themselves [outside of the classroom]. Get to know people different than you. Do the things that normally only a few students get to do.”
An academic, a professor, an administrator, and now a president—President Gonzalez is a lifelong learner. What has he learned in the past year?
“I learned that I now speak not only for myself but for the entire institution. As a professor I had the freedom to speak my mind, to criticize, to endorse, and so on. As President I must pay attention and be careful. I’m learning. It isn’t difficult, but I need to be aware.”
As for the ultimate K question, Stacks or Caf?
“Like I told you, I have to be careful with what I say! I have gone to the Cafeteria but not yet visited Stacks. I love the quesadillas they make there, I love Taqueria Tuesday. But still need to visit Stacks.”
Chuckling, President Gonzalez added, “how’s that for a diplomatic answer?”