By Hattie Bernstein
Like the students she teaches in SNHU 107, a course for the College of Online and Continuing Education’s newest and less experienced students, Dr. Michelle Alvarez has dreams and goals, and the determination to realize them.
Alvarez has a doctorate in social work, a tenured faculty position at Minnesota State University and a prestigious American Council on Education fellowship. She wants to be a university president.
“For a whole year, my job is to learn everything about the university I can,” says the professor, who is taking her ACE fellowship at SNHU to learn what’s involved in higher education administration. “I sit in the provost’s office, but I don’t sit much. I’m at all the meetings of the senior leadership to learn more about the institution.”
The path she traveled to SNHU’s provost’s office has been long. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s in social work, Alvarez spent 14 years in the field as a social worker. While employed as an academic advisor at a community college in Florida, she enrolled in a weekend Ph.D. program that took her 10 years to complete.
“There was no online then,” she says. “It took me a long time, but I was determined to finish because I wanted to teach.”
As a professor of social work, Alvarez came to realize that she could make “a higher impact in higher education” through research, writing and working at the national level. The position would also give her more visibility and the opportunity to speak “on behalf of those who couldn’t.”
She says she chose SNHU for her ACE fellowship after researching universities and their leaders across the country and around the world.
“I read an article about the most innovative universities, and SNHU was one of these. That was how I picked coming here,” she says. “I called, interviewed, and President (Paul) LeBlanc was so gracious to accept me. I brought my whole family and two dogs.”
It couldn’t have been a better decision. In addition to shadowing LeBlanc and attending senior leadership meetings, Alvarez has visited other campuses in the Northeast and across the country to learn about innovations in higher education.
“My career goal was to be a university president, but I had to find out if that was really what I wanted to do,” she says. “This confirms it.”