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Azziz grew up alongside other future university leaders

Saturday, April 6, 2013 3:36 PM
Last updated Sunday, April 7, 2013 1:09 AM
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They came from the same small neighborhood on a hill in a city on the western edge of Puerto Rico and now sit at the top of their respective institutions. Dr. F. Javier Cevallos and Dr. Ricardo Az­ziz can reflect on a shared childhood and look forward to similar challenges in university financing and student debt but also the rewards of shaping young minds.

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Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz (right) and Javier Cevallos, the president of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, grew up together in Puerto Rico.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz (right) and Javier Cevallos, the president of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, grew up together in Puerto Rico.

Cevallos, the president of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, came to visit Azziz at Georgia Regents Uni­versity last week. Both grew up in a family of professors at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. Cevallos’ parents were a historian and a linguist, and Azziz was raised by a social anthropologist and a theoretical physicist.

“Those discussions were pretty interesting stuff,” Azziz said.

The two lived within about a quarter-mile of each other and Dr. Waded Cruz­ado, now the president of Mon­tana State University.

“It is a little hill in Maya­güez that is called Miradero, ‘the lookout,’ ” Cevallos said. “So it is the Lookout Hill. We all moved up there because it was a little cooler, with the breeze. The views were great. You could see the entire bay. It was a nice, nice place to grow up.”

“Javier’s house was very interesting,” Azziz said. “His parents’ house is actually on the edge of the cliff.”

Azziz’s family would later build their house nearby.

“We built it by hand,” he said.

“They did it themselves,” Cevallos said.

BOTH ATTENDED THE same private Catholic high school where “99 percent” of the students went on to college, Ce­vallos said.

“It was not even a question. It was just an expectation,” he said.

“In fact, I can’t remember anybody dropping out at all,” Azziz said.

“In our families, in his family and my family, the expectation was not only to go to college but it was:
What graduate degree are you going to get?” Cevallos said.

Yet they knew theirs was a “privileged” existence, even without a lot of money, because they could see the impact of a lack of education in the poor areas around the city, he said.

“We were the fortunate ones,” Cevallos said. “You could see what not having an education and not having a profession” would mean.

BOTH GRADUATED FROM their hometown university and went on to careers in the United States. Cevallos plowed straight through from his doctorate into teaching and then a full professorship.

“Then at some point I woke up one morning and said I want to do something different and started getting into administration,” he said. “It’s been kind of a seamless progression.”

Azziz, an OB/GYN and an accomplished researcher who still has an active lab at GRU, said he didn’t start thinking about administration until about 15 years ago,
when he was finishing his MBA. His father had always warned him against that sort of thing.

“My father would say to me all of the time, ‘If you become an administrator, it is the end of your professional career,’ ” Azziz said, laughing.

“You’re done,” Cevallos chimed in.

“In many ways it has helped certainly myself and probably Javier understand how faculty feel about administration,” Azziz said.

It is not the same job it was in their fathers’ time, Cevallos said.

“It is a job that requires a lot of time, it is 24/7 nonstop,” he said. “And you have to do three jobs at a time.”

It means being a lot more savvy about finances at a time when the traditional sources of academic revenue are shrinking, Azziz said.

“Clearly states are getting out of the business, the federal government is getting out of the business,” he said. “The education is becoming more expensive. And the competition from abroad, not just internally from for-profits but the competition from China, who is investing huge amounts of money into this field, how are we going to be competitive?”

In real dollars, the level of funding on average is where it was in 1998, Cevallos said.

“Not only do we have more students, but the expenses we have are significantly higher (than then),” he said. For instance, “ask any college president how much you have to spend in broadband just so students can have Wi-Fi.

“If you have a health system, as we do,” Azziz said, “duplicate those barriers and that cost.”

THE BIGGEST CONCERN they have is for the students.

“We are getting to the point that students can no longer afford to go to college,” Cevallos said. “And it is a very dangerous thing because our nation has thrived because of education.”

“It’s becoming unaffordable for most people to do that,” Azziz said. “It is becoming unaffordable for the universities to actually manage that system. Society seems to be forgetting that an educated population is a population that is successful.”

Yet for all of the challenges ahead for them, the academic life they grew up in and lead now is a good place to be, they agreed. Both Kutztown and now GRU have significant numbers of students who are the first in their family to attend and graduate from college.

“You know that you are making a difference in those lives,” Cevallos said. “That is what makes you very happy.”

Comments (13) Add comment
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showboat
302
Points
showboat 04/06/13 - 05:46 pm
0
0
SEND AZ BACK HOME, PLEASE,
Unpublished

SEND AZ BACK HOME, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!

TrulyWorried
11940
Points
TrulyWorried 04/06/13 - 06:04 pm
8
2
same neighborhood

Oh how I wish one of them would have stayed in the same neighborhood!

Little Lamb
43434
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Little Lamb 04/06/13 - 08:43 pm
6
4
Affirmative Action

This shows what happens.

prov227
2896
Points
prov227 04/07/13 - 12:28 am
6
1
Kutztown!

What, a university named after a town? (Actually Kutztown is a borough.) Azziz giving his friend pointers on changing his university to a more world class name.

justputtin
1384
Points
justputtin 04/07/13 - 12:49 am
2
1
Trade?

I know nothing about Javier Cevallos but I would welcome a trade for azziz. Heck, I would trade most anyone for azziz. Has anyone hired the coach from Rutgers? He'll do! When is C. Walker breathing fresh air? He'll do!

justputtin
1384
Points
justputtin 04/07/13 - 12:53 am
6
1
Asking for trouble

This story is just asking for comments from the dark side. Can we trade for Javier? Please?

seenitB4
79464
Points
seenitB4 04/07/13 - 08:14 am
5
1
Red meat

This article is like a piece of red meat to us...why why why....do you tempt us like this AC??.....you know we are trying to be on our best behavior during Masters....and Kutztown...& I loved Puerto Rico when I vacationed there....never knowing what great things were growing there...heh heh

twentieth century man
102
Points
twentieth century man 04/07/13 - 08:54 am
4
0
The bottom line

The bottom line is the bottom line. American higher education has become too expensive-costs out-stripping inflation. The job of university administrators is to take advantage of new technology, such as mass online courses, to lower tuition and fees, which are too high at not-for-profit, for profit, private, and public institutions of higher learning. Their salaries will be justified when they produce an economically viable roadmap to restore consumer value to higher education.

burninater
8678
Points
burninater 04/07/13 - 11:00 am
2
5
@LL -- Do you have any

@LL -- Do you have any evidence that either of these men benefitted from affirmitive action? Or is it simply your default assumption that a human from Puerto Rico can only achieve success through racially-weighted selection criteria?

jrbfromga
426
Points
jrbfromga 04/07/13 - 12:49 pm
0
0
Is the AC admitting defeat
Unpublished

on GRU? After bashing Azziz's empire building and blatant disregard for the wishes of the local populace (and alumni), is the AC crying 'Uncle' by publishing a sympathetic article?

On the other hand, Puerto Rico, while a U.S. territory, participates as its own 'country' in the Olympics and the International Baseball Championship, among others. Why don't these people stay there to help "their country". We could do just fine with a Southerner in charge of our institutions of higher learning, and keep our traditions as well.

JENNPAT
228
Points
JENNPAT 04/07/13 - 03:06 pm
2
1
get rid of azziz

The best thing is to get rid of Azziz and go back to were we was with M.C.G and Augusta College we was doing fine until he showed up and wanted to change everything.He needs to remember this not were he was born like so many of us and we like to see Augusta and the name of Georgia in what ever is here

TrulyWorried
11940
Points
TrulyWorried 04/07/13 - 03:37 pm
3
1
get rid of azziz

first step - get rid of that disgust provoking picture - does not matter where they came from. This "relaxed" athmosphere does not fit a whole lot of "A" us!

jbartley
444
Points
jbartley 04/07/13 - 07:36 pm
0
1
Governor

Get rid of the Governor and Azziz is gone, until that happens he will be here!!

concercitizen
340
Points
concercitizen 04/07/13 - 09:37 pm
0
1
Want to know how bad things

Want to know how bad things are? There are those among us who thinks Obama is a good president, and is he truly an American? We had all better wake up now while we still recognize our surroundings.

NrthAugustaSam
461
Points
NrthAugustaSam 04/08/13 - 12:48 pm
0
0
Is this Really News?

I know you wanted to put up a human interest article, but we aren't interested in Azziz anything! Find something else to write about please.

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