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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Jorge Gonzalez has been the president of Kalamazoo College since 2016.
The Monterrey, Mexico native is the school’s first Hispanic president.
“Coming to Kalamazoo College is like winning the lottery,” Gonzalez said.
Growing up in Monterrey, Gonzalez had a different vision.
“What I wanted to do growing up was work in government,” Gonzalez said. “I wanted to develop better economic policies to develop more growth, reduce poverty and increase standard of living.”
While in college in Mexico, he studied abroad for a year at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.
“I decided I needed to improve my English and I wanted to meet people different than me,” Gonzalez said.
He returned home to finish his bachelor’s degree at Monterrey Tech. Gonzalez then came back to the U.S. to earn a doctorate in economics at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
During his fourth year in East Lansing, Gonzalez was offered an opportunity to teach.
“As a result of that experience, my whole life plan changed and I said forget about the government, what I want to be is a professor of economics,” Gonzalez said. “So to me, that opportunity to teach class was like an internship. I was given a chance to try something different.”
Gonzalez eventually taught economics at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas for more than 20 years.
“At that point, I was in my mid 40s and I did an internship in college administration — once again, that internship changed my life,” Gonzalez said.
The internship at Pomona College in California led to an administrative role at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Six years later, Gonzalez got a call from K College to be the school’s president.
“Kalamazoo College believes in personal education, which is what I’ve been doing my life as a professor,” Gonzalez said. “Kalamazoo College believes in experiential education, study abroad, having students do internships and engage with the community.”
As president, Gonzalez has several goals for Kalamazoo College including making school affordable and setting an example for Hispanic students thinking about attending college.
“We have one of the highest percentages, if not the highest, of Latinos and Latinas of any college or university in the state of Michigan,” Gonzalez said.
The Hispanic students aren’t just from Michigan. They come from other areas of the U.S. with large Hispanic populations like Southern California and South Texas.