Robert Ruiz. Photo by Khi Davis

"As individuals, especially as students, each person here has a significant amount of power," Ruiz states.

As of two months ago, OCCC received a new member to the executive team. This is Robert Ruiz, the new External Affairs Executive. 

Q: So Who are you? Where are you from? And What’s your relation to OCCC?

A: “My name is Robert Ruiz, and I am the new Executive Director of External Affairs here at OCCC. And I recently came from being the head of a nonprofit, a statewide nonprofit called Scissortail Community Development Corporation, where I was the president. They primarily did economic development and workforce development work, mostly in the area of education. So education work really focused on providing equity and closing achievement gaps for underserved students. And that took the form of many things, amongst them, being able to create new educational models, being able to organize students and families to change policies, both at the local level and at the state level. And that resulted in not only the formation of new schools, but also the creation of new laws. So you know, significantly effective at really elevating the voices of the people that are the closest to educational outcomes, both students and families. And then prior to that, I was overseeing the development of Crossroads Mall into Plaza Mayor for three years. Then previous to that, I had my own companies that worked in the areas of Hispanic marketing, entertainment and culture, and also software development. And prior to that, I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and came to owe you as a national scholar.”

Q: So you’ve recently been hired here, about a couple months ago. Can you share what your role has been with OCCC?

A: “Sure. My job is mostly focused on external affairs, so everything that’s outward facing. So right now, I am overseeing the operations of our Cultural Affairs Department, Cultural Programs Department, which of course, runs the VPAC and has a pretty large outpacing role. The Community Outreach and Education Department as well, which brings in many people from the community to take advantage of educational programs that are noncredit, so mostly through federal grants. Also helping here with the Marketing and PR Department, especially on the outward campaigns. And then more directly through community initiatives, community events, and Governmental Affairs, both local, state, national and international.”

Q: That’s cool. So how did this opportunity come about?

A: “Well, one of the programs, the primary program. Most of our nonprofit ventures were funded by donations, foundations. The primary grant there was through our foundation, and the program had met a lot of its goals. And so that program was ending. and really, there was an opportunity for me to see what’s next. And so I kind of just put myself out there…and just kind of saw what the universe had for me. And this opportunity came up here at OCCC, and I applied. I mean, it felt like it was just a perfect match for my abilities. Especially looking through the job responsibilities and job duties, I felt that a lot of the things that I had learned up to this point really, were a great match for that position, and Since then I think I’ve been able to be useful in many ways here to the institution, working with many of the great leaders here in this in this college. Very much, I love the way that Dr. Jones’s vision really aligned with my own values and my own goals. It felt like a really good place for me to be. And so I was just really glad that I was accepted through the interview process and chosen to fulfill this role. And I just really have a lot of great expectations for this institution. Really excited to be able to work with everybody here. And, you know, there are a lot of people here with big hearts for students. The students themselves are just great and unique. And so any ways that I can help the institution to help and to move forward towards the strategic goals of the institution, then that’s really what I’m passionate about.”

Q: ​​So have you had any relation to OCCC, prior to being employed?

A: “Yes, actually. I think I mentioned earlier that I was head of a nonprofit. And we’d had some events here. Primarily around cultural events that helped sustainability with some of our cultural education programs. And I’m a musician as well. And so I was even able to perform at some of those events and other events, here at the VPAC. So I’d already had a really great relationship with the venue…so yeah, I’ve had that connection. And then off and on with others. I mean, this institution touches so many areas of the community at large. And so I had a connection here just a few feet from where we’re sitting right now, helped with some television programs that were running several years ago through the Hispanic marketing efforts that I was undergoing. So yeah, I mean, this is one of those institutions that touches the community in so many ways that, you know, no matter what I was doing, on a professional basis, or community basis, there seemed to always be some sort of connection here to OCCC.”

Q: So with that, how do you see yourself helping OCCC?

A: “The ways I see myself helping OCCC would primarily be in achieving the strategic goals of the institution. There are three big goals, which are increasing giving to the institution to support students, student events, student life, you know, kind of everything around just enriching that experience for students here at OCCC. The second one being the designation for OCCC as a Hispanic serving institution. So I have a long history within the Hispanic community and within education within the Hispanic community. So I very much hope to help us, you know, reach those last percentage points that we need to become a Hispanic serving institution. In order to be designated, you have to have a Hispanic student population of 25%. And I think we’ve been wavering between 20 and 22%. So we’re almost there. And then thirdly, one of the other big goals was reducing the achievement gaps for students. And so there have already been tremendous efforts made in that arena. And I really would like to participate in the further development of programs that can really help to reduce those achievement gaps to increase graduation rates. And so you know, any moment we can do across the board there. And then, as an institution, we also have many major initiatives. And so I just want to be useful in any way I can, to move forward on all of those major initiatives, which are, which are many, but if anybody wants to go look those up, those are publicly available on our Mission and Vision section. In the ‘About OCCC’ [section] on the website.”

Q: All right, cool. One more question that I have is, what’s in stock for the future of OCCC.

A: “I think to talk about the future of old Triple C, we have to talk about the past. This year, we will be celebrating 50 years. This institution has represented just greatness here in South OKC. It’s really helped fill a gap that was tremendously needed. The amount of students that we’ve been able to serve year after year, definitely is an indicator of the effectiveness of this institution. So many positive things, many people who have contributed to making this institution to what it is today. For the future, we want to see that tradition continue there. And there are many opportunities that are now arising with the face of education changing. With some students moving to online, even though there’s a movement to come back in person, we believe that that online presence will now never go away. So how do we make that and those offerings even more robust? How do we look at those things that made this institution great within the community and be able to reinforce those things? Even maybe some programs that maybe did not survive. How do we take another look at those models to see if we can make those things sustainable and bring those back? So a lot of really great things. And we’re talking about many innovative ideas right now within leadership, and involving student voices within that as well. Yeah, as an example. As we move towards our 50th anniversary celebration, we just, you know, created a campus wide committee, and it was very important for us to have a representative from Student Government on that committee to make sure that those student voices are being represented. And that’s going to always continue to be very important to us, that the people that are the closest to the primary service area, which is our students, that their voices are always taken into advantage, and in many ways that they lead in different topics as well. I would very much encourage any students here at OCCC to proceed to get involved in student government. Also, when there are committees created, if they can, you know, if they really want to be able to not only get involved, but to develop their own leadership, those are great opportunities to do so.”

Final Words…

“As individuals, especially as students, each person here has a significant amount of power. You know, I think, you know, in my previous work, I, you know, I worked very heavily as a community organizer. And so I would very much like the students to know that they do have a tremendous amount of power, it’s really how they use it. Right? I think that many times, any of us have situations in which we feel powerful in which we feel powerless, right? Power is neither a good nor bad thing. It’s simply the ability to act. And that every student here has the ability to, to learn how to use that power in a positive way. And a collaborative way to, to make change and to move things in a positive direction. And most of all, to be able to develop their abilities also as a leader, you know, and that helps in any sort of environment, whether it’s in your own careers, whether it’s in your communities, or whether it’s in your family, those are skills that will always be useful.”

Cheers to 50 years, and welcome aboard Ruiz. OCCC is very appreciative of you joining the team. 

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