On Wednesday, November 30th, 2022, Career Columnist for The Argo, Charles Obirinanwa, had an exclusive interview with the new Director of Multicultural Center, Jovin Fernandez. Fernandez was asked a few questions regarding her background and what she hopes to accomplish at Stockton. Their conversation proceeded as follows:
Obirinanwa: I am the Career Columnist for The Argo, and The Argo, on behalf of the entire community would like to get to know more about you, because everyone is excited that we have a Director of the Multicultural Center.
Fernandez: Wow! I appreciate it, of course! Thank you. You know it is always good when it is student-led, student-driven. I’m trying to meet with students, faculty, and staff now. I am literally stopping students in the hallways and saying “Hi, what’s your name?” I appreciate it and I’m grateful for how you all are supporting me.
Obirinanwa: Can you tell us about yourself?
Fernandez: I joined the Division of Student Affairs on November 7th, 2022 as the inaugural director of the Multicultural Center and I have 10+ years of experience in higher education, particularly in Career Services, Admissions, Housing and Residence Life, and Student Activities. I came from Rutgers University-Camden, where I worked with the Rutgers Future Scholars program and I am currently pursuing an Ed.D in Organizational Leadership from Stockton and I expect to get it in 2024. I hold a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice from Bloomfield College and a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Rider University.
Obirinanwa: What are you passionate about?
Fernandez: I am someone who is very passionate and invested in youth development. Every job, almost all volunteer opportunities, internships, and all of the work I have done is always centered around helping to give youths access to education, empowering them to be leaders, and helping them tap into their full [potentials]…I felt that I had a responsibility to give back… As a person of faith, my faith is very important to me and it drives who I am and the decisions that I make. I am a leader for a leadership retreat that I oversee in the summer where we take kids from North Jersey and some who are part of juvenile justice system and we pour into them for a week on a campsite. Being able to pull different people and collaborate with them to teach [them about] social and emotional learning, responsive decision making, diversity and inclusion, leadership, [and] education… All these are very important to me, and it is the work that I do here in higher education. At one point, I thought that I wanted to be a lawyer for juveniles and when I worked at the public defender’s office, I realized that this is not the way that I want to work with youths.
Obirinanwa: What personal experiences, values, and virtues do you have that you intend to pour into the community?
Fernandez: What I am excited about this role is that my job is to create a sense of belonging for those who sometimes may not feel like they belong…I am always trying to bring people together, connect people to resources and help them become the best version of themselves by connecting them to the things they aren’t connected to. I also believe in being vulnerable. We all go through life and anything happens. We all go through some challenges [and] tribulations, and I’m at a point in my life where I wouldn’t allow that to break my spirit…You decide how you want to see life. You can’t just put on the light switch and say that you want to be happy…I will take the time to listen…[and] I appreciate being connected to so many people because believe it or not, students think that they learn so much from us, but we learn so much from them. So, I love that it is a reciprocal relationship because guess what, I’m growing and you’re growing although the ways we grow are different. Does that make sense?
Obirinanwa: Oh yes, very much. It does make sense. So, how do you feel about being the director of the Multicultural Center?
Fernandez: You know, as a doctoral student, I was really excited but I never saw myself getting this degree, but just the fact that I’m here pursuing this degree and I’m two years in makes me excited. I am really excited to be here as a student so much so that I became a graduate assistant and I became the President of our doctoral student group, OLA. It stands for “Organizational Leaders in Action,” and I had an amazing time being able to help create a hooding ceremony for the doctoral program last year and I got to meet some people who work here like Ms. Dianne. Not just the students, but I like the people who work here… So when this opportunity came, it felt like a natural fit because I was already doing so much as a doctoral student. So, if I could do that as a student leader, imagine what I can do as a director. I love programming because I believe that it is the perfect platform to educate, empower and enlighten students, faculty and staff. I’m a builder, so thinking about this position, to be in a place where I’m asked to bring innovation to life makes me feel ready to fill up the gaps…I know that a lot of that work has already been done but the whole thing is now having a physical space…This space is to get everyone involved so everyone can grow outside the classroom while challenging themselves.
Obirinanwa: Do you have any final words for the students or anything for them to expect?
Fernandez: What I will say is get ready, the center will be opened in the spring and it’s coming along very nicely… I hope that students will take advantage of the opportunity to be in there. I want students to come there with an open mind, and I look forward to the vibrancy in that space— that’s why I’m happy being in the WGSC because I’m able to feel that energy… The center will be a safe space and brave space where we can talk… I want students to reach out to me anytime. My email is email@example.com, and I meet with students because I want them to know that everyone belongs here.
Obirinanwa: Thank you so much for meeting with me, and I enjoyed chatting with you.