Alumnus Mario Fuentez is Pacific's inaugural director of enrollment access and inclusion
Growing up in Stockton, University of the Pacific was always the dream school for Mario Fuentez ’02, ’11.
Now, he wants to help other students achieve the same dream in his new position.
Fuentez was just named inaugural director of enrollment access and inclusion in the Office of Enrollment Strategy.
“My mom said, ‘what are you going to be doing?’ I said, ‘a lot!’” Fuentez recalled, laughing.
He’s already been brainstorming his goals so he can hit the ground running when he moves into his new role on November 22 from his current position as assistant director of admission.
“I think the main takeaway is just creating a pipeline to recruit, retain, and ultimately have students graduate from historically underrepresented populations,” said Fuentez.
Fuentez understands the challenges some of these students face. He was the first in his immediate family to attend college.
“I had to rely on teachers and mentors and people that could help me read financial aid documents and figure out how to apply for financial aid,” he said.
Once at Pacific, he found support through the university’s Community Involvement Program (CIP). CIP is a need-based scholarship and retention program for first-generation college students from Stockton.
Fuentez went on to earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration, then returned several years later to earn his master of arts degree in educational administration and leadership from Pacific.
He’s spent much of his career at the university in positions focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. At one point he served as interim director for CIP, the same program that helped him as an undergraduate.
“He has successfully built a culture of access and inclusion through his previous work in admission recruitment of various diverse student populations, pre-college programs, mentor programs and student support services, including some of Pacific’s own educational equity programs,” said Vice President for Enrollment Strategy Chris Ferguson.
Before returning to Pacific in 2020, Fuentez also spent six years at Academy of Art University in San Francisco where he was resident director.
A seasoned higher education leader, the new role as director of enrollment access and inclusion is one Fuentez is uniquely qualified for, according to Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Pacific.
“He understands how the needs today are different than perhaps the needs in the past,” she said. “I also believe that Mario has a level of ‘urgency of now’ as Martin Luther King used to call it. This idea that now is the time for universities, in this case enrollment leaders, to really think about what it is that we need to be doing to address the inequity that has led to a disproportion of students that have been provided the educational access for future professional careers.”
Fuentez will be working closely with Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, building on diversity initiatives already in place to achieve the goal set by President Christopher Callahan of becoming a national model anti-racist institution.
“[This position] is going to drive institutional policy as it relates to enrollment management,” said Wardell-Ghirarduzzi.
Fuentez says it’s going to require some innovative thinking.
“It's going to be a lot of strategic planning with financial aid, with marketing, and then also with helping the counselors who are traveling on our behalf, just so we start really intentionally thinking about how we're recruiting specific demographics,” said Fuentez. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Getting to know Mario
Favorite thing to do in Stockton: I like walking down Miracle Mile! Whether it is to take a casual stroll, do some window shopping, catch a yoga class, grab a bite to eat or winding down with a glass of wine at Mile Wine Company, it always turns out to be a pleasurable time.
Outside of work I enjoy: Going to the City (SF) to visit with friends and family, maybe to explore one of the many well-known neighborhoods, check-out a new exhibit at the SFMOMA or just do a little shopping in Union Square (a block from where I used to live), and there’s always a trendy new bar, lounge, or restaurant to grab a tasteful bite to eat, whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Favorite food: Pizza
Winter or summer?: My favorite season is the fall, however, I definitely prefer the summer over winter, especially since I now live in a house with a pool. It’s relaxing to lay poolside and swim!
Most-watched TV show: Schitt’s Creek. I finally finished watching the entire series on Netflix from beginning to end.
Favorite spot on campus: I like going to the Spanos Center and watching the men’s and women’s basketball teams compete. I played basketball in high school and enjoy watching it!