After a year and a half at Swarthmore, Dean Rivera departs for Rutgers

Intercultural Center

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On Monday, November 13, Dean of Students Liz Braun informed the campus community via email that Jason Rivera, Dean of the Sophomore Class and Director of the Intercultural Center (IC), will be leaving the college on December 22, 2017.

Rivera, whose first term at Swarthmore was in the fall of 2016, is moving to Rutgers University-Camden to work as the Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Success.

Rivera will be the third consecutive IC Director to leave Swarthmore after a tenure of less than two years. His predecessors, Amer Ahmed and Alina Wong, left after similarly short time periods.

Timeline of Intercultural Center Directors since 2012, including Interim Directors, courtesy of Isaac Lee ’18.

When asked about the high turnover rate of the IC Director position, Braun wrote in an email to The Daily Gazette, “We have had turnover in this position due to opportunities for professional advancement and the personal life circumstances of individuals in the role. Unfortunately timing is not always ideal for when someone’s dream job comes along or other life circumstances such as a partner or spouse’s professional opportunities might draw them away from Swarthmore sooner than we might like.”

Indeed, Rivera, when asked about why he was leaving, wrote to The Daily Gazette, “I decided to leave Swarthmore after thoughtful conversation with my husband[sic] and the decision was based on the needs of my family.”

When asked about the relationship between the IC and the rest of the College’s administration, Rivera wrote, “I wholeheartedly believe that the administration is supportive of the Intercultural Center.”

In her email to campus, Braun highlighted the impact Rivera has made on Swarthmore in his short time here: “He has supported the continued growth of the Intercultural Center through innovative programming including the current year long celebration of the Intercultural Center’s 25th anniversary; launching the LGBTQ advisory committee and hiring​ an LGBTQ fellow​. He has also played a significant role in the planning for the Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center at Sproul Hall which will open in the Fall of 2018.”

Of Rivera’s personal qualities, Braun wrote to The Gazette, “He is a dynamic, creative and caring educator and colleague.”

When asked about what it is like to work with Rivera, Nyk Robertson, Assistant Director of the Intercultural Center, wrote to The Gazette, “In the past year, it has been my tremendous pleasure to work with Dean Rivera. He was always willing to take time out of his busy schedule to assist me in creating successful programs and initiatives.”

Gilbert Guerra ’19 developed a close, personal relationship with Rivera during the spring of 2017. “I didn’t really know how much a dean could do, but he was really helpful. He didn’t sugar coat anything, but he was also reassuring. He thought of clever solutions to my problems and was able to serve as an advocate for me. He made a big difference in having my issues be resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.

Rivera’s time here was not without controversy, however. In an article published in Swarthmore Voices, AynNichelle Slappy ’20 wrote about an incident in which, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, also referred to as Columbus Day (October 9, 2017), Rivera asked members of the Swarthmore Indigenous Students Association to relocate their mourning and compared the students to colonizers.

When asked about why he was leaving in the middle of the year, Rivera wrote to The Gazette, “Unfortunately, search processes run on ​a ​variety of different schedules, which means that sometimes someone may need to leave during the academic year.”

Regarding the surprising nature of his departure, he continued, “I did not talk with Dean Braun or any other senior administrators about my decision to leave until I had accepted the offer from Rutgers. Although not required to do so, I provided the college with sixty days of notice in order to provide them with adequate time to prepare for my departure.”

In contrast to his current position at Swarthmore, which often finds him working directly with students, Rivera’s new role at Rutgers University-Camden will have “oversight for multiple departments and programs and will be focused more on strategic planning and implementation across the entire University.”

He wrote, “So, it is really like comparing apples and oranges.”

As for what will happen to the Intercultural Center, Dean Rivera, wrote in his statement, “Until the transition plan is finalized, Nyk will continue on in the role of interim Assistant Director […] and continue to support the IC interns and the work we have planned for the remainder of the year related to the 25th anniversary.”

There will be a farewell gathering in December for Dean Rivera, the details of which will be announced by Dean Braun, shortly.

Keton Kakkar ’20

Keton entered Swarthmore with the class of 2019 and graduated with the class of 2020. He double majored in English literature and computer science and was awarded Honors at commencement. A former editor of this newspaper, he was responsible for merging The Daily Gazette with The Phoenix, among other initiatives. He grew up in Sands Point, New York, completed the last two years of his secondary schooling at Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts, and is a member of the class of 2025 at the NYU School of Law.

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