Rigoberto (Rigo) José Rincones Gómez., Ph.d.; 2021 Top Latino Liders in Florida!

Rigo Rincones-Gomez, Associate Provost, Institutional Planning, Analytics and Effectiveness. PHOTO BY: JEFF JANOWSKI/UNCW

What is your Hispanic Heritage: I was born in Venezuela. 

What area of Florida do you live in: I currently live in Fort Myers; although, I have also lived in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Tampa. 

What is your profession: I work in Higher Education. Specifically at Hodges University, where I serve as Senior Vice President overseeing Academic Affairs. 

Meet Rigo and other Lideres at the Hispanic Heritage Celebration at 3rd Annual FORD Taste Of Latino Festival on Sunday, Oct 17th @ Centro Asturiano! (www.TasteofLatino.com)

Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it.

Rigo: I work in Higher Education, specifically, I currently serve as Senior Vice President at Hodges University, a private not-for-profit institution located in Fort Meyers, Florida. I oversee all aspects related to our faculty and academic programs, at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

I started my Higher Education career over 25 years ago, in Caracas, Venezuela where I worked as an adjunct faculty teaching courses for both, traditional and non-traditional (i.e., adult) students. I arrived to the US on 1998, to continue with my Higher Education career and pursue a Doctoral Degree in Michigan. Undoubtably, my passion for helping others brought me into Education and to the classroom. Said passion continues to inspire me every day and to look for additional opportunities to make a positive impact at scale. My work illustrates the value as well as the uniqueness of my combination of qualifications (with my degrees in engineering, project management, educational leadership, and evaluation).

Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition

Rigo:  In Higher Education, it is extremely important the positive impact you make at the individual level. Whether this includes your students, your colleagues, your Institution, or the professional field when you work. What separates me from others are the substantial contributions I have made at the individual level with my innovative teaching, learning, and administrative practices. I continuously reflect on how to improve my work and maintain high standards through feedback and collaborative work with colleagues.

During my career, I have earned five degrees including two Masters and a Ph.D.; have published over 25 journal articles, monographs, reports, books/book chapters and have also made over 100 presentations in 10+ countries. Official records, professional, and personal references also confirm my substantial leadership role at the national level while working with over 200+ institutions of higher learning by championing evidence-based institutional improvement. I have worked at faith-based, public and private, national and international community colleges and universities from single to multi-campus; in rural, suburban, and urban settings; and with enrollment ranging from 950 to 65,000 students. Here in Florida, I have worked at Broward College, in Fort Lauderdale; Edward Waters University, in Jacksonville; University of South Florida, in Tampa; and currently at Hodges University, in Fort Myers. 

Latin Times Magazine:  During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it

Rigo: From a professional point of view, the biggest challenge was to work fully remote and heavily depending on my computer video camera and microphone. These tools became our daily routine and for most people it has continued to this day.  From a personal standpoint, it has been a challenge to be away from family overseas and going through their struggles from the distance. The way my family and I, as other people as well, have overcome it, is to simply adjust to a new reality that calls for more attention to our social behavior. There are new protocols or recommendations in place from the way we greet people, to the way we are supposed to meet, and maintain social distancing. 

With the covid challenges, I quickly realized the various struggles that the educational community was facing.  Thus, I made myself available even on weekends as some colleagues (current and former) needed a familiar face who listened with care and provided calmness during uncertain times (e.g., some colleagues moved out of their homes, had relatives who passed away).

Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)  

Rigo:  During my career I have accumulated an array of academic and professional achievements. It is my passion for, and belief in, the value of education that has brought the most meaningful rewards. My record and involvement with national and international institutions and my association with external organizations devoted to higher education demonstrate my dedication, drive, and enthusiasm to reach out and support the betterment of student success worldwide and to prepare students to become responsible ethical citizens in a global society. Trying to identify one single ‘biggest accomplishment’ will be a challenge in and of itself. Perhaps the most important message I can convey is that by working effectively, treating people with upmost appreciation and respect, and working in collaboration with others, anything is possible. To receive this award is an honor and I would include it as one of my most significant achievements in my personal and professional career. 

Latin Times Magazine:  What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you? 

Rigo: I am a very motivated professional who is fully committed to serving others via education. I am very proud to say that I have helped individuals from many countries, educational backgrounds, and ethnic groups, particularly Hispanics/Latinos. I look forward to opportunities that allow me to continue making a positive impact in people’s lives at scale. 

Latin Times Magazine:  What does being a U.S. Citizen mean to you?

Rigo: When I was in college back in Venezuela, I dreamt of coming to the US to further develop my professional career. I am now a proud U.S. Citizen, and this is profoundly meaningful to me. This is an amazing country, full of possibilities, and I am focused on helping others to fulfill their dreams as well through a good quality education.

Latin Times Magazine:  What is your opinion of the state of affairs in our nation? 

Rigo:  No matter what political party is in power, there are and will always be, conversations about what is right or wrong about the state of affairs in our nation. What I wholeheartedly believe is that this is a great nation and that together, working collaboratively, and focusing on our future we can build an even better and stronger tomorrow for our children and for many more generations to come.

Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer? 

Rigo:  We must keep going on our own willingness to help others, and do what is right. 

Latin Times Magazine:  Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share? 

Rigo:  I hope this recognition propel us to recognize other Hispanic/Latinos who are also making a positive impact on people’s lives. 

Latin Times Magazine:  What is YOUR comida Latina favorita? 

Rigo:  Empanadas de Queso / Cheese Empanadas.