Council of Independent Colleges names school president to board


After graduating from Aquinas, Juan Olivarez began his teaching career in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Photo by Johnny Quirin

A national nonprofit that supports independent higher education institutions has selected a local academic leader to serve on its board of directors.

Aquinas College in Grand Rapids said this month that Juan Olivarez, president of the liberal arts college, was elected to serve a three-year term until January 2018 on the board for The Council of Independent Colleges, or CIC, during the 2015 CIC Presidents Institute meeting in San Diego earlier this year.

The association

For more than 50 years, the CIC in Washington, D.C. has provided support, resources and services to roughly 750 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education organizations.

Through workshops, seminars and programs, the organization strives to advance independent higher education and its leadership.

The association is governed by its board and an executive committee.

Board member role

As one of the 27 board members representing CIC institutions and related educational organizations, Olivarez will work with the association to create new programs, advocate for underrepresented students in independent higher education and develop future leaders in the private education sector.

Olivarez said over the past few years, he's worked with the CIC to focus on improving higher education from Aquinas’ perspective and now will be able to grow his participation as a board member.

“Now, with my expanded role, I will be able to help guide the organization on a number of strategic initiatives that will advance higher education,” Olivarez said.

Education background

Olivarez has more than 30 years of experience in a number of leadership positions in academia prior to joining Aquinas College in 2011 as president.

He worked at Grand Rapids Public Schools for more than 11 years and at Grand Rapids Community College for roughly 20 years.

Olivarez has also been involved with a number of local and national organizations: Van Andel Education Institute, National Institute for Literacy and the Higher Education Research and Development Institute.

His work in education and leadership have been recognized by national associations: National Community Leadership Association, Executive Leadership Institute and National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development. 

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