After 38 years of dedication and hard work at the Imperial Valley College, Dr. Jaime is retiring and we had the honor of interviewing him for our monthly Success Story.
Undoubtedly, Dr. Jaime is a role model of success and humility who has inspired many people throughout his career. On the wall over his desk, the president and superintendent of Imperial Valley College (IVC), has two diplomas—the two he holds most dear. One is the associate’s degree he earned at IVC in 1977; the other is his doctorate from Northern Arizona University earned in 1999. He has more degrees, including a master’s from San Diego State University and an educational specialist degree from Point Loma Nazarene University. But the two on the wall hold a special place for Jaime, who was born and raised in the Imperial Valley. The degree from IVC, a community college in this California desert southwest region, set him on his educational path and the doctorate was a culmination of that journey, one that took him farther than even he anticipated when he finished high school and thought about his future.
College was always a goal, instilled in him by his parents and grandparents who didn’t have his opportunities, but wanted more for him. That he would earn a doctorate and one day become president of the college that began his path. Those accomplishments became examples of how an education can guide one to new heights. Those accomplishments are also examples of one man’s passion to make a difference at the college where he has devoted his entire professional career and in the Imperial Valley community where he has raised his family.
Tell us about your life story
VJ: For those of you that don’t know I am an Alumni of IVC, I was a student here many years ago. IVC is really the beginning of the journey for so many people here in the Imperial Valley myself included. I’m a first-generation college student born and raised here in the Imperial Valley. Graduated from IVC and from here transferred to the university not knowing I was going to come back here to Imperial Valley. This was my first professional job and that was about 38 years ago and I’ve done quite different things I started out as a counselor, I was the dean of financial and state programs for a number of years, I became eventually the Vice-President for Student Services, and for the last seven years as Superintendent/President. In total I have I completed a total of 38 years this year I will be retiring officially and I have seen so many wonderful things here at the college, opportunities that have opened for so many students in the Valley and being a product of IVC I understand how important this particular institution is to all the citizens of Imperial Valley.
What inspired you to stay in the Imperial Valley?
VJ: That’s kind of interesting. Originally, like most people, the plan is to leave the Imperial Valley and not look back. Well, the reality is that life is not what you think it is on the outside and really, it takes leaving the Imperial Valley for a while to really appreciate what a wonderful place this is to live and to raise children and to be part of the community. So it only took me a couple of years after leaving and I knew that I wanted to stay here in the Imperial Valley and in some way give back to the community the way so many people gave back to me and made it possible for me to achieve what I achieved.
So through your entire 38 years of service what has been the biggest challenge that you had to overcome?
VJ: The biggest challenge probably happened as I ascended to the presidency. I mentioned that I had a different journey that I was pursuing and that was to be a counselor. I wanted to be the counselor or social worker because I wanted to help people and that’s really been my passion or also to be a teacher those are the things that have really inspired me. But there were a couple of individuals that really became my mentors along the way and they still are to this day who really had other plans for me. They saw in me what I didn’t see in myself at the time and that is leadership abilities. My fear about going into administration was that somehow I was going to lose touch with the students, but one of those mentors said to me one day that as counselor and a teacher you will impact the lives of many, but as an administrator, you have the ability to change policy that will benefit the mass and in that way you can give to so many more and many that you will never meet. But because of your ability to make those policy changes, you really impact so much more people. That made sense and beyond that point, I pursued administration and saw that I liked it and enjoyed it.
How does it make you feel to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and that there will be a leadership institute honoring the services you have given to IVC?
VJ: I think of all the different opportunities that I’ve been provided with some kind of acknowledgment, I think this one is the most special to me. I remember going to Rob Smart who is the executive director of our foundation and I came with two names to recommend as inductees to the Hall of Fame, these are IVC Alumni, and he said “Oh, no, the IVC Foundation Board already made their inductee selections for this year,” and I said “Ok, I will save them for next year,” and he goes, “Actually, you are the inductee.” You could just knock me down with a feather at that point because I was not expecting that but then when he told me that that plan was not to just raise money in my name, but really raise money to establish a leadership institute that primarily will focus on our students and building the leaders of tomorrow. So if these opportunities can afford others the opportunity to learn that they are leaders in their own right and provide them with the tools to do that, then I’m very thrilled and very happy to leave that as a legacy.
What message do you have for our viewers, our readers, and anyone that has been inspired by your story and accomplishments?
VJ: I will sum it up this way: Life is a journey and most of us think we know where that journey is going to take us. Be open to those people that can be a mentor to you because sometimes others see something in you, a skill, a talent, which you might not even see in yourself. Be open to those opportunities and always, whatever you pursue, make sure you pursue something that you have passion for. It has to be something that you feel that in the end of time you are going to make a difference and that difference is about giving back so it isn’t about what you accomplish but what others accomplish because of the way you were able to sustain some of that. So be passionate with what you do, give it all, and always give back because there is no greater satisfaction than to see that you played a part in the success of others.