Juan Rivas graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor of Science in History with a minor in psychology in 2007 and a Master of Arts in Communication in 2016. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. from Colorado State University (CSU), where he works as a collegiate success coach and runs a TRIO-themed podcast.
He discusses the inspiration behind the podcast and his time at ENMU.
Why did you choose to attend Eastern?
TRIO Upward Bound played a large role in that. I was exposed to the campus with the Saturday meetings and various activities that the program held on campus. TRIO Upward Bound held summer courses and had a residential program that high school students could attend. I remember those summers fondly. I learned so much about myself as a person and a student. I started to see myself as a potential college student at ENMU. I didn't apply to any other school because I wanted to be a Greyhound. Even if I could do it all over again, I would still choose to attend ENMU.
How did you choose your field of study?
I switched majors many times, but I landed at history because of three major influences: Susan Cramp (director of the Advising Center), Doris Anaya (former TRIO Upward Bound director), and Doc Elder (professor of history). All three saw my potential as a historian and someone that loves to tell stories. History was a natural fit; I love diving into historical documents and reading past events. It's crucial, especially in today's age, that we do not forget history in its entirety. Too often, history is bent and shaped to fit a singular narrative. I think landing on history afforded me the opportunity to explore American events thoroughly with no filter. As for communication, I have my friend Rodrick Chambers to thank for that. I was always on the fence about getting a master's degree. Rodrick gave me a good push, and I decided to do it. Communication is a fascinating area; how we choose words to portray thoughts is very interesting. Those words have bigger implications for the people reading them; it conveys meaning differently for all of us.
Which activities were you involved in at ENMU?
I was a member of the Greyhound Sound; I played clarinet for two years and was part of Symphonic Band under Dustin Seifert. That experience I hold on to dearly. I wish I had joined additional student organizations; I think that would have enhanced my experience. During my graduate years, I was a part of Hound Waves online radio with the Department of Communication. I loved being part of that radio experience and assisting with its start. Radio is a timeless relic. It's still a place for vital information to be shared, I think. Radio continues to evolve in online formats and podcasts, so it remains important.
Discuss your Eastern Experience.
My undergraduate years were some of the best. I still remember Doc Elder, Dr. Isham, and the various professors that pushed me to do my best. But, two staff members still stick in my mind: Susan Cramp and Doris Anaya. No offense to Doc Elder, but Susan would be my unofficial adviser before meeting with Doc to go over my graduation plan. Susan is knowledgeable, and I learned to be like a hawk when it came to signing up for classes and finding purpose in each class. Doris not only helped me with understanding college but also creating the meaning of my college experience. It is no accident that both served TRIO and their influence still impacts me and my work today. During my graduate years, I had a great professor in Dr. Amanda Gatchet, who helped me become a better writer. The Department of Communication faculty members during my time at ENMU were the best: Dr. Chad Painter, Dr. Roger Gatchet and Dr. Patti Dobson.
Tell us about your job. What inspired you to work in that role?
I am currently the collegiate success coach for the Office of Outreach and Support Programs within the Collaborative for Student Achievement at Colorado State University. I work with students who face academic challenges and work with them throughout the semester to address those specific challenges and create opportunities for learning. I love my job at CSU. I was drawn to the job because it had a TRIO-vibe to it, and I've served the TRIO programs in my past experiences. I'm also a part-time podcaster. "Let's Talk TRIO" was born from the idea of Hound Waves.
What are your job duties?
As a collegiate success coach, I am responsible for a lot of outreach to students finding themselves in an academic hole. The job is to meet with students, formulate a plan of action, maintain constant communication, create an open dialogue about challenges, identify academic policies that may benefit the student and assist students in returning to good standing. For the podcast, I serve as a scout for interviews, executive producer and host. I'm having so much fun with the podcast. I'm getting to meet new people and hear their TRIO story. I am very fortunate to have a small team to create and promote TRIO stories.
What inspired you to start the podcast? What is your creative process for putting together each episode of the podcast?
"Let's Talk TRIO" started at Hound Waves. I interviewed local TRIO staff and had the ENMU Upward Bound participants on the radio show. When I moved to Colorado, I entertained the idea of creating a radio show centered around TRIO. I kept thinking that no one would listen or invest in a radio program. I shelved the idea and put it on, what I thought would be, a permanent hiatus. During the "permanent break," I kicked around the idea of creating a podcast. Encouragement by my close friends at ENMU and CSU (shout out to Tony Ho and Rodrick Chambers) finally gave me the motivation to start the podcast. I began to record the first episode. The first one is always messy or choppy…but, as I started to record more episodes, I became confident and proficient at it. I put out a call on social media for former TRIO participants, current participants, alum and staff to come on the show. I do some research on each guest via the information they provide, and I also provide an opportunity for the guest to give feedback regarding the questions. The hardest part is to allow the guest to create their story without interrupting too much. I don't want to inject myself into the interviews; I want the audience to really hear from the guest. However, I realize that some guests prefer some prompting here and there; that said, I do create opportunities for us to carry the conversation without it having to stall or get stale.
How can people access the podcast?
The podcast can be accessed via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeartRadio and PodBean.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
At CSU, I love the connection with students and seeing them get to a better academic status than they were previously. Students would come back semesters later and say, "what I learned in your academic workshops still sticks with me." That's a great feeling, knowing that they took each lesson to heart and seeing students be successful. As for the podcast, I love hearing from TRIO folks, whether they are staff, alum, participants or advocates. Each story has a unique flavor, and each interview stands apart from the others. I enjoy the conversations and getting to reflect with students about their journey.
What are your short- and long-term goals for this position?
I would love nothing more than to make changes to academic policies and influence the direction of academic coaching. That's my short term goal for CSU. For the podcast, it would be to interview one TRIO program from the east coast by the end of 2020. Long term, for CSU, it would be to advance as a professional to oversee coaching programs and pursue a Ph.D. program at CSU. For the podcast, it would be to make it a part-time gig, something I can do on the weekends and allow travel to other states.
Where did you work before CSU?
I was an academic coordinator for Clovis Community College TRIO Upward Bound program, senior tutor coordinator for the University of New Mexico-Gallup TRIO Student Support Services program, coordinator for TRIO Upward Bound at Eastern New Mexico University, director for the TRIO Upward Bound at Eastern New Mexico University, adjunct faculty (speech communication) for Front Range Community College and a security guard for Code 4 Security Services.
How did ENMU prepare you for your career?
ENMU provided the foundation of learning. Each of these positions required a level of critical thinking, assessment and program implementation that demanded attention to detail. Each of my courses needed that attention to detail, especially the master's program.
What advice would you give to a student interested in working in your career field?
If you want to get into education, start now. Get involved with TRIO Upward Bound or Talent Search. Look for teaching opportunities. Build a portfolio. Any opportunity that allows you to take on teaching duties will only help you grow as a professional.
What do you hope to achieve in your career?
I hope to make a mark on the way universities perceive or handle students on academic probation. I think there is a negative stigma for these students; they work really hard to prove that they belong and may have had a terrible semester (or more). It takes time to recover. Colleges shouldn't instinctively expel or dismiss students. There is an opportunity for growth there; I think we can mentor students to be a better version of themselves.
Are you involved with any organizations or causes? Volunteer work?
I am involved with CoCEAL, the Multicultural Staff/Faculty Network at CSU, the Latinx Engagement Group at CSU and ASPIRE Colorado. I volunteer time with TRIO programs as a guest speaker or to provide support. Any spare time I have to commit to organizations, I want to make sure it is to the benefit of raising Latinx voices and shining a light on social justice issues.
Tell us about your family and background.
I was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in Clovis, New Mexico. My dad is Guadalupe Rivas, and my mom is Socorro Rivas. My siblings are my brothers Luis, a graduate of New Mexico State University, Jose, a graduate of the University of New Mexico, and Fernando, a transport specialist, and my sisters Maria, who was formerly an EMT response, and Martha, a member of the United States Marines. I have two sons, Juan M. Rivas, Jr. and Javier Miguel Rivas, and a daughter, Jasmine Marie Rivas.
I am an alum of the TRIO Upward Bound and Student Support Services Program.
Who influences you? Who is your role model?
Mr. Gordon Hart (high school band teacher) continues to be an influence. He has a way of making anyone believe in themselves. The lessons I've learned from Mr. Hart shows through my work with students. Doris Anaya is another person that influences me and my career. Doris is the definition of strength; through her, I learned about what it means to be compassionate and caring to others. Finally, Susan Cramp. Having had the pleasure of being both her student and an office assistant, Susan provided a lot of lessons: Teaching is more than just a career; it is mentoring to demystify the college process, creating connections and staying ahead of your profession (never settling for the minimum).
Which accomplishments have you had?
I am very proud to have brought the "Let's Talk TRIO" podcast to a wider audience. I hope to be recognized in the field of academic coaching and podcasting! I also started a private podcast for CSU that addresses students facing academic difficulty. I am very proud to have started a mini-podcast movement.
What are your hobbies?
Reading a lot of history books lately and some poems. I am currently reading "Stamped from the Beginning" by Ibram X. Kendi and "Dear Leader" by Jang Jin-sung. I've taken up archery. I'm not that great at it, but it helps clear the mind. Hiking is a MUST in Colorado.
What is an interesting fact about you?
I do enjoy watching movies, but I lean heavily toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Yes, I am a huge fan of Marvel comics and their movies. I am also very competitive with video games or games in general. Technology is something I love to explore and continue to learn about.
Any additional information you would like to share?
I quick thank you to my mentors (Susan, Doris, Rodrick, Doc Elder and Mr. Gordon Hart) and a shout-out to everyone who encouraged me to start the "Let's Talk TRIO" podcast. Special thanks to the podcast team, Amelia Castaneda and John Russell, for helping me make this dream a reality. I want to say thank you to my kiddos, Junior, Jasmine and Javier, for their infinite patience when I sit down and record episodes for the podcast. To my mom, dad and my brothers and sisters…a huge thank you to them for their unconditional love and support. If anyone reading would like to support the podcast, please find us on Patreon or Kickstarter and search for "Let's Talk TRIO." Thank you for interviewing me and for featuring the podcast! I always remind people: I may work at Colorado State University, I am a Ram on the outside, but a Greyhound on the inside. Go Rams! Go Hounds! Green and Silver Forever!