This is the first in a periodic series that gives readers a chance to get to know the Tri-State's college and university presidents better through a simple Q-and-A on serious and not so serious topics.
Gateway Community & Technical College President Fernando Figueroa has brought a zest for life and new experiences to Northern Kentucky that he honed in his native New Orleans.
1- Your hometown and your favorite thing about growing up there?
New Orleans.The culture focused on living the good life. Good Food. Good Music. Good Fellowship. My favorite New Orleans phrase: Laissez les bon temps roulez! 'Let the Good Times Roll!' My favorite image for New Orleans: The fleur de lis. The Resurrection Flower. Most apropos post 'The Storm.'
2- What's the hardest job you ever had?
I worked several summers at a hospital during high school for the maintenance department, cleaning bathrooms and taking care of the various spills and messes around the facility.
But when I think about my career track, I don’t see it as hard or easy. I think of each part of the journey as part of a continuum of experiences where I get to learn new talents in myself.
Sometimes, the greatest challenge is being patient with myself as my new talents emerge in response to my current placement.
As a new president, my current garden of opportunities are asking me to hone my communication skills so I can capture the hearts and minds of folks who do not work in higher education so we can join forces to solve the challenges facing our community in Northern Kentucky.
3- What's your favorite junk food?
I prefer the term comfort food. Food that brings one home. For me, that is Café au Lait and Beignets. Nothing says home to me more than that.
4- What food can you not stand?
I am not a hot pepper person. So you can keep your habeneros, please.
5- What's your secret talent?
Not sure this is a secret, but I work on how I can affect the room environment with how I choose to treat people when I enter that room. A smile. A handshake. A friendly word.
People are mostly unaware of the energy they bring into a room during meetings. I work to bring a calming influence so we can work with what is rather than what people think is.
Call that a secret talent? It certainly makes a world of difference.
6- Name an item on your bucket list.
This will sound weird to some. Others will so get this.
There is one guitar shop in Memphis that makes the best guitar ever. Saint Blues Guitars.
I want to walk into their shop one day with cash in hand and build a customized guitar designed exactly to my specs.
7- What's your favorite joke, suitable for a family publication?
I like jokes that make me see life from a different angle. Sometimes the absurd jokes are the best.
Like: How do you hide an elephant on a pool table? Put a green cap on its head.
Strange, I know. But sometimes the funniest thing about life is how it asks us to think again about our situations.
8- What about Gateway makes you most proud?
That’s an easy one. The people. First, last and always.
Every system or plan is only as good as the people involved. People work the garden and the garden produces what the people cultivate.
Gateway has some of the finest and most committed folks I have had the pleasure to meet on my professional journey. They make my day every day and I work to return the favor.
9- What's the biggest piece of unfinished business you'd like to accomplish during your tenure?
To establish Gateway as the go-to partner in developing innovations that create the community we want to live in.
Bonus Question: Something else readers would be interested to know about you?
I love comic books. Always have and always will. I join my geek brethren in strong solidarity.