Jake Rivera: Vice President of Student & Academic Affairs at Great Basin College

As a parent of three kids, I (Anthony Crosby) joined many of my Elko area brothers and sisters on the daunting adventure of distance learning this week! At the time of this blog’s publication, we’re about two days into the “new normal” as far as public schooling is concerned. Online learning is simply how things are done these days. This shift, in reality, has come at the hands of the Coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has turned so many worlds upside down; however, some organizations have not only stayed afloat but have continued to find success throughout the pandemic. An example of one of these institutions would be Elko’s very own source for higher education, Great Basin College (GBC). In some ways, GBC has been innovating what many of us are still trying to figure out this week with our kids. Let’s introduce this week’s guest so that he can explain more!

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Today, we’re joined by Jake Rivera. Jake currently acts as the Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs at Great Basin College. Basically, if there’s a service or program provided at the college that will best serve its students and curriculum, you better believe that Jake is the man with the knowledge behind it all!

I was excited to chat with Jake! I not only wanted to learn more about him as an integral part of our local college, but I was curious to find out, as a whole, what GBC has been doing this year to continue fostering an environment of success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

That you so much for joining us this week, Jake. We appreciate your time as we know that the Fall isn’t exactly the slowest part of the year for any school! Before we chat about what GBC has been up to this 2020, can you please share a bit about yourself and what brought you to our community?

“I have twenty years in higher education, and I started at, what some may call, the bottom as a student worker back in Georgia. Like many people in higher education, I didn’t have the goal of working in the field. As a seventeen-year-old at the time, it was a good job. I was one of the first in the family to go to college, and I didn’t have the ability to go to my parents and ask them questions about making sure I was doing the right things. So, there were many things I had to figure out on my own.

“As I was working in the offices, one of the things I learned was that I wasn’t really giving people my best because I didn’t know all the things, I could have, to point others in the right direction. So, I took on different positions within student affairs. I was trying to learn so I could help others as I was working through school; I wasn’t looking for a permanent job. However, after a while, I realized the rewards of working in an environment where you’re helping others succeed. As a minority myself, I had the opportunity to help ensure other minorities’ success and bypass many barriers that can exist. That was key for me when it came to decide to continue my career in higher education.

“When I got the opportunity to come to Great Basin College, it really excited me because the school offered online education programs, which most institutions, at the time, did not do or only offered a handful. This allowed us to have a big role in how online education can advance the institution and the lives of our students and community.”

So, you’ve worked in higher education for over two decades, what’s kept you in it for so long, Jake?

“For me, it’s about being a part of something bigger. It’s about changing student’s lives and the lives of the community that we serve. It’s about being able to see, firsthand, on any given day, how I was able to make a difference. I feel like anyone will be more successful in life when they’re doing something that has purpose and meaning.”

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Fantastic! Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the 2020 room, Coronavirus. What do we need to know about how GBC’s been dealing with the pandemic?

“Of all the things we know we want to focus on, there’s this COVID cloud around everything. However, although COVID did create some challenges for GBC, it also created some opportunities! What put Great Basin College in a good position this year was that we were already a leader in Nevada’s online education. While many colleges and universities struggled to adapt from in-person to online education, GBC was already offering substantial courses online. Therefore, it wasn’t as much of a change or challenge for us as some of our sister institutions.

“Right now, Great Basin College is the only institution, in the state of Nevada, that’s up in enrollments. While other schools are climbing up after a drop-in enrollment; we’ve stayed steady and held fast to what we’re strong at. The sky’s the limit for us, and there’s a lot that’s been accomplished at GBC!”

What are a couple of specific things GBC has done to ensure all of that success you’ve mentioned?

“For us, one of our most important priorities was training our faculty. Before COVID, where we already had a large percentage of our faculty that taught online classes, but we still had some that had never done so before. So, we had to ensure that our training was one that created quality within our students’ learning environment.

“Secondly, we wanted to make sure that our courses work for students with specific learning abilities. For example, some of our classes will be hybrid (online and in-person), while others will be strictly online. What we won’t do at GBC is put up PowerPoint presentation and tell everyone they need to just figure things out online. We want students to see the advantages of online education, not as a disadvantage to their learning ability. As much as we can connect learning online to the future of our workforce, those are the key elements that we’re looking to go over for when creating online learning mechanisms.”

Wonderful! It’s great to know that our Northern Nevada neighbors are receiving the best service and care from you, your peers, and GBC as a whole! Is there anything else you’d like to share before we let you get back to campus?

“At GBC, we’re focused on quality and affordability. We’re fulfilling the workforce needs in both rural Nevada as well as around the state!”

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Until next time, we’ll see you around, Elko!

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