The board of trustees of Kalamazoo College has chosen Jorge G. Gonzalez, Ph.D., to become the institution’s 18th president. Gonzalez is currently vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Occidental College (Los Angeles, Calif.). He succeeds President Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, who announced her retirement in April 2015. Her last day at K will be June 30, 2016. Dr. Gonzalez will begin his new duties as K’s president on July 1.
“I feel my life has been a preparation for this incredible opportunity to advance the liberal arts and the K-Plan,” he said. “Kalamazoo College’s mission is a perfect match with my deeply held belief in the learning values and the life values of experiential education and international education.”
Gonzalez said immersion in the liberal arts is the most powerful and life-enriching form of undergraduate education when students have opportunities to apply their academic work in a variety of extra-curricular experiences. As a professor and an administrator Gonzalez has created innovative combinations of liberal arts academics and experiential applications, programs that cross borders and cultures. At Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas, 1989-2010), where he worked as a professor of economics and special assistant to the president, he organized and helped develop: summer travel-study programs related to economics coursework in Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg; summer student internships in Madrid, Spain; a travel-study program in Vietnam; a partnership between the Tec de Monterrey (Mexico) and Trinity University; and a “Languages Across the Curriculum” program in which courses are taught in the language most germane to the course content.
At Occidental College (2010-2016) he has continued to help create and support experiential learning programs that allow students to engage in the world in ways that draw upon their liberal arts education. Several of these programs involve students in the issues and environs of greater Los Angeles and in discussions and applications of social justice.
A gifted professor, Gonzalez won Trinity University’s most prestigious teaching award (2003), the Dr. and Mrs. Z.T. Scott Faculty Fellowship. He is widely published and a frequent contributor at professional and academic conferences. His research interests include international economics, political economy and development. He served as the president of the International Trade and Finance Association (2014), and he was selected by the American Council on Education for its prestigious ACE Fellowship (2007-2008). He spent that academic year at Pomona College and visited and spent time with the leaders of about 30 other colleges and universities across the country.
Gonzalez grew up in Monterrey, Mexico and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree (major in economics, 1984) from the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM). During his junior year he studied abroad at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, an experience, he said, “that changed my life!” He made the Dean’s List at Wisconsin, and he graduated first in ITESM’s economics class. Gonzalez earned his M.A. (economics, 1986) and Ph.D. (economics, 1989) from Michigan State University, where he achieved the institution’s “Highest Scholarship Award,” given to the graduating M.A. student in economics with the highest grade point average. His Ph.D. dissertation is titled “Essays in the Theory of International Factor Mobility.”
“The board’s vote was unanimous and our excitement boundless,” said Board Chair Charlotte Hall ’66, who led the presidential search committee. “Dr. Gonzalez is a passionate champion of the liberal arts and has an abiding commitment to the values embodied in the K-Plan: academic excellence, experiential learning, intercultural understanding and community engagement. Through all of his work, he has sought to make that powerful combination better and more accessible to diverse groups of students.
“Thank you to the members of the presidential search committee for their diligence and wisdom during this important task,” Hall added. “They have served Kalamazoo College well, and K will reap the benefits of their hard work.”
Along with Hall, the search committee included trustees Jim Clayton ’78, Gwen (Van Domelen) Fountain ’68, Si Johnson ’78, Alexander Lipsey ’72, Jody Olsen and Jon Stryker ’82; Alexandra Altman ’97, president of the Alumni Association Executive Board (and a member of the board of trustees); faculty members Arthur Cole, associate professor of physics, Kyla Day Fletcher, assistant professor of psychology, and Jan Tobochnik, the Dow Distinguished Professor of Natural Sciences; Victor Garcia ’97, grounds coordinator for facilities management; Tanush Jagdish ’18, member of the sophomore class; Stacy Nowicki, library director; and Sally Arent, assistant to the vice president and dean of students and secretary to the search committee. The search committee was assisted by the well-known higher education search firm, Storbeck/Pimentel.
Gonzalez is married to Suzie (Martin) Gonzalez, a Kalamazoo College graduate of the class of 1983. They have two children, a daughter (Kristina) and a son (Carlos). Kristina recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in international relations and is currently working in commercial real estate in Los Angeles. Carlos is a sophomore at Rice University majoring in computer science. Articles on Dr. Gonzalez and his family will appear in upcoming issues of BeLight Magazine (February) and LuxEsto (April).