Finalist said the most important thing he can do is listen to students.
By Alison Graef
Dr. Mike Flores, president of Palo Alto College and chancellor finalist, shared his life story and his vision for the Alamo Colleges with about 60 faculty and staff at the Chancellor’s Town Hall meeting Feb. 22 in the nursing complex.
Flores highlighted that not only did his wife attend community college, but also his father and two brothers have attended this college, his niece is attending Palo Alto and Northwest Vista colleges, and his mother was a first-generation, non-traditional student.
“All of my family is connected in some way either with with an Alamo College or with community colleges,” Flores said. “My mother-in-law — because I think this is what I think it’s all about — actually had a third-grade education and earned her food certification here at SAC.”
Flores discussed social mobility and how people do not have equal opportunity to be socially mobile, but rather their mobility is determined by the circumstances they are born into.
He said having a high school diploma and college degree are both key to having higher social mobility, so he wants to further the Alamo Colleges partnerships, such as with high school districts and organizations like SA Works, that help individuals attain higher education.
“I want us to go create and work with the community to be able to make a difference,” he said. “It’s about social mobility — it’s about improving the lives of our students and our community.”
Flores was born in Del Rio and moved to San Antonio in 1983 after spending time in California and Colorado. After graduating from Holmes High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science at University of Texas at San Antonio.
While at UTSA, he was involved in student government and served as a student ambassador.
He moved to Illinois and worked full time in student affairs at Illinois State University while earning a master’s degree in political science. During that time, he met and married his wife, Martha. They have been married for 20 years.
Flores said his wife is an inspiration to him. She was born in Chicago, but grew up in Mexico, and was a first-generation American.
He said she owes her success to the education she obtained from attending community college.
Missing Texas, he and his wife moved and he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph. D. in hybrid administration.
He said he and his wife have built their lives in San Antonio and call it home. He said he lives off South Flores Street and has surprised students when they run into him at the H-E-B at 1601 Nogalitos St.
“They say ‘You’re from Palo Alto!’” Flores said. “I say ‘I am.’ And they say, ‘What are you doing here?’ and I say ‘I live here.’ So for me it’s been very important to live, work and worship in the same community that our students are in.”
In an interview with The Ranger after the meeting, Flores said as president he knows what the individual colleges have to offer, and as chancellor he wants to take successful programs and ideas and implement them at the other colleges.
“There are a lot of things that we do well, that are established and promising practices, that can be scaled up to the system,” Flores said. “I want to be a part of that change, so I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to work in tandem with the presidents, with the vice chancellors, under the leadership of the board to move things forward.”
Flores said his experience with faculty, staff and students at Palo Alto College gives him insight into how things work at a college level, and he wants to use that knowledge to benefit the colleges at the district level.
He said he wants to strengthen student success by increasing the opportunities for students to work in their fields while attending college, such as peer advising, student internships and participation in community nursing clinicals.
“What we need to look at is ‘how can we harness the talents of our students as they pursue their fields?’ so that they can get more training, they can be more marketable when they apply for positions, and also so that we can serve the community and provide services,” Flores said.
Flores said the most important thing he can do as chancellor is honor the voice of students when deciding how to support their success in college. He said it will be important to ask students what programs and services they want to see implemented, and how to improve those that already exist.
“It’s really asking students, respecting the voice of students, and honoring their voice as a part of the process,” Flores said.
Flores said that a strong foundation for future growth includes the implementation of initiatives, such as Alamo ADVISE, which were added to the chancellor’s job description.
“I think we’re fortunate because we’ve actually had a direction that’s been established and set by the board, and we’ve had Dr. Leslie’s leadership over the past 10-plus years in which he’s laid a strong foundation with regard to how we operate.”
Leslie announced retirement at the Oct. 23 board meeting and will stay until Sept. 30 to help with the transition.