New UTPB official is a graduate

In a way, Richard Ortiz’s military service led him to college and his current position as coordinator of veteran and foster alumni services, school certifying official at the University of Texas Permian Basin.
Ortiz, who is from Midland, graduated from Midland High School in 2002. He was in the Marine Corps from 2002-2006.
He was stationed in New Orleans for three years and one year at various bases in California. Ortiz did communications and a lot of information technology work in the Marines.
“I was sitting in the mall waiting for the Sam Goody music store to open and the recruiting office had a poster of a Marine wearing his dress blue uniform,” Ortiz recalled. “I thought it was really cool and I was like I want to be like that guy. On a whim, I just went in and signed up. They were trying to be persuasive and I was not ready to hear that. I just wanted them to give me the paperwork so I could sign in and that’s what I did. It was pretty spontaneous.”
Ortiz said his military service was “good” and he would do it again if he had to.
He said his service exposed him to other parts of the world and other cultures that have helped shape him — on top of what he grew up with.
“I think now I can relate to more people, which has served me well in my previous jobs and what I’m doing now especially,” Ortiz said.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from UTPB in spring 2020. He dropped out of college in 2007-08 to pursue a dance career and he was distracted. He taught at Love to Dance Studio in Odessa and knows 22 different styles of dance.
“I was dancing pretty much for the rest of the time professionally up until 2018 when I came back to finish. I had a (car) accident where I got hit by two cars,” Ortiz said. “It made me reconsider the fact that I might not be able to walk or use my body in some way so maybe dancing wasn’t going to be the best option moving forward. I came back to school, finished my bachelor’s in marketing and graduated spring of 2020.”
He was planning to attend school full time and finish his master’s in business administration when Associate Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator Corey Benson asked what his future plans were.
Ortiz said he planned to stay in town and Benson told him the coordinator of veteran and foster alumni services, school certifying official was open.
“The job mainly focuses on students — veterans and students who grew up in foster care — so my title is coordinator of veteran and foster alumni services. Basically, the main portion of my job involves helping these students understand and utilize their benefits. Military veterans have educational benefits that will pay for their tuition. Sometimes it will waive their tuition. Foster kids have similar programs that will waive their tuition,” Ortiz said.
“The thing is, most students don’t fully understand that they have these benefits or how to use them, and if they do, they don’t know how to maximize them. Many of them are also first-generation students in this area, so if they look at it in a bubble or a vacuum they get a small picture, but when they realize how those benefits work with financial aid or work with other services that we have at the school, they can be very fruitful …,” Ortiz said.
He added that the benefits can allow them to go to school without working.
“If someone who is trying to figure what they’re future career might be, or if they know it, there’s a lot of programs that look for students who are veterans, who are going into specific career paths. These students may also not know these things, so apart from their benefits I serve as a liaison to the outside community looking for potential partners that are willing to help veterans and foster students,” Ortiz said.
He noted that some veterans and foster children may not want to self-identify as such so it’s hard to let them know they have these benefits.
Currently, he has about 120 active veterans in the program and about 10 foster youth.
Working at the university he graduated from has been nice, Ortiz said.
“I already had an affinity for doing stuff here on campus. As an undergrad, I was in student government. We made what I feel was a significant impact on campus, and during that process I got to work with other students, the faculty and staff and I got to learn about the university and how certain things function what things can be done to make a better change for the students …”
Benson said Ortiz was the keynote speaker for the 2019 Veterans Day Commemoration at UTPB.
“His remarks encouraged his peers to relentlessly pursue their goals and do so in the service of others – to become heroes in their own communities, which I believe is what Richard has done. As a veteran of the U.S. Marines Corps, Richard served as a Network Administrator from June 2002 to June 2006. In recognition of his quick, decisive and skillful planning to ensure minimal communication downtime to over 450 other units across the world during Hurricane Katrina, Richard was nominated for a Navy Achievement Medal. Richard has served the communities in which he has lived in myriad ways through service with community and civic organizations including Lake County Schools, CBC (Community-based Care) Central Florida, USA Dance Orlando, West Texas Crisis Center, Keep Odessa Beautiful, Hope and Help Center,” Benson said in an email.
Initially, Ortiz wanted to go for his MBA because he was thinking about starting or running a business. The other aspect was that earning a master’s would mean more money for most jobs.
“But when I got offered this job it kind of changed a little bit because what I’m doing right now I feel like is a very meaningful job,” Ortiz said. “In many ways I’m using my degree.”
So far, Ortiz said he is enjoying higher education and wants to stay in it and having gone to UTPB he knows some of his colleagues. Most departments have been willing to work with him.
“… It’s been refreshing for myself and them as well because they usually vocalize with me that it hasn’t been as common to see someone approach them. It’s been exciting and I’ve definitely made a lot of good partnerships here at the school,” Ortiz added.
Ortiz said he is looking for partnerships with organizations that offer services to foster youth and veterans. He would also like to see a scholarship fund for veterans who are transitioning to civilian life.
“I’m always looking for external partners that are willing to help our veterans. And hopefully in the next year or two it’d be nice to be able to set up an endowment that would be able to take care of all that automatically moving forward,” Ortiz said.