My Bow Tie Thursday with Dr. Alvarez

Passion doesn’t come from a paycheck and loving your job can’t be bought. Rather Timothy Alvarez, North Dakota State’s vice president for student affairs, has something special, passion. From my conversation with him, I can say one thing. The guy loves his job.

His job has been affected, though. Via a Listserv email President Dean Bresciani notified us all about the elimination of Student Affairs.

Since that day, students have been very vocal. Vocal about the outreach, and vocal about their love of the man behind the bow tie.

Personally, I had never had an experience with Alvarez before this interview. Walking into his office I couldn’t help but feel a sense of wonder.

What has this office meant to some students? What has he meant to certain students?

Student Affairs, and Alvarez, have obviously affected students all across campus.

For me, it is hard to say I wasn’t slightly nervous about the interview.

That changed when I saw his smile.

Alvarez’s office is unchanged, seemingly unaffected by the news that has hit campus like a bombshell over the past week.

The NDSU community cares. This campus is a community. We take an interest when we perceive a hard situation. I asked him how he was doing and what his plans were.

Without leaving his smile, Alvarez laid out some wisdom as he has done countless times for students.

“I am a firm believer that we are defined more by our failures than our successes,” Alvarez said. “There are certain things that I value and are important and non-negotiable, and I am hoping that those values allow me to take the next step and I really believe that every adversity allows you to be a better person on the other end of it, although it can be painful.”

Alvarez is a genuine person. What he tells you reflects that real passion that he has for his position and the campus he serves.

Students care genuinely for him as well. It was hard to not see the outpour of support from the NDSU community.

He said he has been touched by the support. “I love what I do … It has been really humbling, it gives me the impression that maybe a few things that I did worked.”

I asked him if his hashtag game would change, he said, “I hope not.”

Although traditional hashtagging might seem like an afterthought to some, Alvarez informed me of his intentions.

Alvarez preached validation. Letting someone know they you believe in them through vocal support. From the #ilovemyjob to #shesarockstar, they all are part of his plan.

“I find it really fascinating when it happens that students are a little apprehensive but know that somebody believes in them and sometimes it is as simple as posting on Facebook saying, ‘kid you got a lot of courage, that took a lot of courage for you to come in and share,'” Alvarez said. “And how they respond to that, I find that terribly powerful.”

Like all of us, we have a story to tell. How did we pick NDSU? For me, I never really intended to live in Fargo coming out of high school. Surprisingly, though, neither was he.

The question, seemingly inspired by Miss Universe: What does NDSU mean to you?

Alvarez said his predecessor told him to apply for his current job and he painted a picture not too much unlike my own. “At the point, I was like I love you buddy but I don’t want to be in North Dakota.”

Just like me, Alvarez fell in love with the folks of Fargo though. NDSU is truly a community. We love the school and we love the people.

“I think part of my challenge to staff is having them think we are move than a frozen tundra and a wood chipper… There is more to this campus than that and it really has to do with people who are engaged and concerned about others,” Alvarez said.

Through my visit I learned a fun fact that is destined to become an NDSU historical fact on a plaque; Alvarez has a lot of bow ties.

“I probably have between 30 to 40 or more. It usually takes a whole year to get through them,” he said.

He said bow tie Thursday will continue wherever he goes.

The thing that struck me most during the interview was his office. This is a person at work. He reminded me that no matter the news, “there is still work to be done.”

“There are certain segments, first-generation students, students of color, low-income students are students, based on recent research are probably not being as successful as we want them to be so we want to be a little bit more targeted. I still have some time to do that,” Alvarez said.

NDSU has been lucky to have such a passionate asset. For the best wrap up question, I had to ask a very hard question, what is Dr. Alvarez’s favorite NDSU memory?

This can be considered an unfair question to just present someone at the end of the interview.

He, of course, had to think. This is not an easy question. He reminded me how many there were.

He found that memory though and began telling me a story. A story about a student who was having issues who had applied to come back to NDSU but was denied initially. Alvarez told me that he personally challenged that student.

“I had a conversation with him awhile back, and he is doing well,” Alvarez said. “And that is one of those where I guess in my mind that particular story reminds me why I am here.”

“Prove me wrong and come back,” he added. “And when you graduate I’m going to say I screwed up. But I am also going to be the first one to say because I challenged you; I hope that allowed you to revisit what you really want to do. What you want to commit your time energy and resources to. And so he is here now. When I see him and visit with him it makes my heart warm.”

Alvarez has left his mark here at NDSU. From an NDSU community member, it is easy to see his importance and his passion for his job. It is easy to see why students are so emotional in saying goodbye.

Although it is sad for the moment to consider the future, it doesn’t take away from the past or the present. He is still working hard every day to reach us students. We can’t forget how we have been honored to have such a passionate member of our community.

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