Fuentes’ purview includes dual credit outreach to the school districts, the transitional learning center (adult education and literacy programs) and the extension centers in OC’s service area.
“I think in all of those different areas we’re thinking about how we bring more students to Odessa College, so in thinking about adult education and literacy we’re really thinking about how we provide the training and the education that they would like to then enter the workforce afterward,” Fuentes said.
“In dual credit, we’re constantly thinking what are the certificates and the degrees that we can offer to them so that they can be successful once they enter the workforce, too. So we are constantly thinking how (to) … bring this to more students faster. And we really like the OC 10,000 initiative because we see ourselves in the academic partnerships as one of the big pieces to make that happen,” he added.
Although he is new to the position on the main campus, Fuentes is no stranger to Odessa College. He was extension director for its extension centers, based in Pecos. Under that, he also was the Pecos center director.
“I’ve been working for the last four years for Odessa College — two years as full time and then two years as part time and now starting again as full time,” Fuentes said.
He also was assistant superintendent of business and support services for Pecos ISD.
Fifteen full-time staff members work with Fuentes and many adjunct faculty members help out at the transitional learning center.
“… I love being on the main campus because you get to go all the student events. You get to really engage with the students. I always loved coming to the main campus because it was always vibrant,” Fuentes said.
“I just love everything that happens here. I love the All In (employee rewards) program. I’ve always been the type that goes to all the sporting events. Even at the ISD, my wife and I would go to all the Pecos football games and volleyball games — all the different activities, so I love that I get to do that here on the main campus,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes graduated from Pecos High School in 1999 and went to Harvard University, graduating from there in 2003. He earned a master’s and PhD in political science from the University of Michigan.
“It was a culture shock,” he said of Harvard. “I think we’re so used to West Texas where people are really polite and really kind. And while I found people to be that way (in the Boston area), I think it was just a faster pace and people didn’t think to slow down as much and to pay those common courtesies. The pace was just so much faster than I was used to in Boston. And they speak faster. … I think after being there for a while, I started to speak a whole lot faster than I once did. I remember when I first got there I found myself a little tongue tied because I was trying to speak as quickly as they did. But that’s just not our pace. That’s not our way of life here. We slow it down a little bit.”
From the time he was in elementary school, Fuentes said he got it into his head he would go to Harvard.
“But I also felt like I was part of an exceptional class where we really pushed each other. Two of us went to Harvard; one went to MIT; and another went to West Point. And all of the rest of our top 10, for the most part, went to Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor,” he said.
He said many of the students he went to high school with became pharmacists, doctors and PhDs.
He said Harvard was a big pop culture reference, but his parents also wanted their children to achieve. He has three siblings, including a sister who died of cancer.
“… They let us know that we were going to college, that we were going to be successful, that we were going to work hard to get to these places and so I felt like I had the proper support system to make it all happen,” Fuentes said.
His parents didn’t have college degrees, so they wanted their children to aim high.
“They wanted us to be successful. They realized what we could obtain with a college education, so they pushed us hard. …,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes and his wife, Alma, have a 10-month-old son. They have moved to Odessa.
“I just know that I’m excited to be back at Odessa College. I love what we are doing here. I love that we’re bringing more educational opportunities to students. … I love Odessa. I love what’s happening here. It’s been a lot of fun for me. While I’m from the small town and love the small town, I also grew accustomed to two cities so I’m glad that I’m a little closer to the resources that a city has,” he said.
President Gregory Williams said Fuentes is smart, has institutional knowledge and is a hard worker.
“We expect big things from him! … We feel it is certainly possible in many cases that having Dr. Fuentes on hand will inspire students to realize they can do anything with education no matter their background,” Williams said.