Gonzalez Set to Retire After 32 Years
December 22, 2020 - Dorene DiNaro
At the end of 2020, Andrew Gonzalez who has been at The University of New Mexico for 32 years in both a student and employee capacity will retire. Gonzalez enrolled at UNM in 1988 pursing a degree in Economics and Spanish. During his time as an undergraduate he also began working at UNM, first in a work study position, which turned into a temporary position in Career Services, and ultimately led to a 27-year career.
During his professional tenure at UNM, Gonzalez spent equal amounts of time in El Centro de la Raza and the College Enrichment and Outreach Programs. “Seems like 13 is my favorite number,” he says with regard to his time at UNM. Gonzalez served as an advisor in El Centro de la Raza for 13 years and helped countless students along the ways.
He then moved on to serve as the director of College Enrichment and Outreach Programs (CEOP) for his last 13 years, an opportunity he felt fortunate to have earned. “I want to thank Dr. Tim Gutierrez for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to lead a wonderful department with some amazing staff,” he says.
Gutierrez says Gonzalez has helped the institution develop and implement efforts to serve students at all levels to increase student success. His absence will be felt among faculty, staff, and most of all, students. “I will miss him tremendously,” he says. “His work ethic, integrity and passion to do what is right has always been an unshakable trait of his. His ability to demonstrate that passion and care for his students over the years is irreplaceable.”
As director of CEOP, Gonzalez was responsible for overseeing a range of programs and services providing academic support, advising, career exploration, and social and cultural opportunities for UNM’s low-income, first generation students.
“It was always my goal to make sure that students had all the opportunities available for them to be successful,” he says. “My favorite part was seeing students start at UNM as shy freshmen students and then grow to be leaders at UNM,” Gonzalez says.
Students and colleagues agree that Gonzalez achieved that goal many times over. “I think I speak for many students when I say that Andrew is one of the few people that have contributed to my success as a student and as an individual,” says Jorge Montes Rodriguez, a Linguistics major and student employee in CEOP. “Andrew has been a heroic figure on campus—someone that I can share my achievements with but also meditate on my challenges and lessons.”
Rosa Cervantes, Director for El Centro de la Raza has worked with Gonzalez for the past 25 years and considers him a mentor, colleague, and valued friend. “Over the years we studied together, we developed programs together, were grew together and shared many moments filled with laughter and joy,” she says.
Gonzalez served on the NASPA Region IV-West advisory board for many years and also served as conference chair for their regional conference. Additionally, he served as President for the Southwest Association of Student Assistance Programs (SWASAP) which advocates for TRIO programs on a national, regional and local level, and was involved in the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE).
“Andrew was instrumental in the creation of the Latino Knowledge Community under the National Administration of Student Personnel Administrators where he served as a representative of UNM as a leader at both national and regional levels,” says Dr. Eliseo “Cheo” Torres, Vice President for UNM Student Affairs. “I’ve always been impressed with Andrew and the way he connects with our students,” Torres says.
UNM has undergone many changes in administration, architecture, and student demographics, since Gonzalez started his career, but the biggest positive change he witnessed was the introduction of the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship. “That opened up so many doors for many students and so we saw a growth in enrollment and so we knew it was critical to offer additional services to ensure that students maintained the scholarship and graduated,” he says.
Gonzalez was a permanent fixture at UNM commencements and took pride in watching students, parents, and families celebrate their academic accomplishments. “I always enjoyed seeing students graduate and walk across the stage to receive their degrees,” he says.
Gonzalez says he truly enjoyed his career at UNM and the people he met along the way—and that sentiment resonates on both sides of the relationships he’s made. Jose Villar, Gonzalez’ colleague, and director for UNM College Enrichment Programs feels fortunate to know Gonzalez. “No matter the issue or the time of day, he has always been there for me both, professionally and personally – for that, I will be forever thankful,” Villar says.
Although students and colleagues won’t see him on campus like they used to, his presence will be felt as they continue his work. “Andrew may be leaving an office, but he is also leaving a legacy of helping others,” Villar says. “I can honestly say that I have never met anyone more selfless than he is.”
“I will miss Andrew very much and am so happy to have had the privilege to work with and know such an amazing human being,” Cervantes says.
Gonzalez will be moving home to El Paso to be near family. And just like with most of us right now, COVID will limit his retirement travel for the near future, but Gonzalez is keeping his personal and professional options open. “I do know that I want to continue helping students and so maybe a second career either at UTEP or El Paso Community College would be good. I have also thought about possibly being a high school counselor,” he says.
No matter where Gonzalez lands, he will always have a cheering section from UNM and can celebrate his many UNM accomplishments and the lives he’s touched along the way. “In my personal development I have nothing but gratitude for Andrew in his devotion for helping and giving his all to growth of others. Thank you, Andrew,” Montes Rodriguez says.