Saipan Correspondent

Deleon Guerrero

FINA SISU, Saipan — For the past 25 years, he has served in numerous educational policy positions in the CNMI — including as a member of the Board of Regents for the Northern Marianas College. He has published papers and delivered presentations instrumental in educational reform in the Marianas. 

In 2014, he helped launched NMC’s Prior Learning Assessment Program which helps non-traditional students earn academic credit for their experiential learning — and wrote his doctoral dissertation about the program.

Fast forward seven years, Galvin Deleon Guerrero, now president of the college, says he is honored to be continuing NMC’s legacy.

Maximizing millions of dollars of federal funding, NMC is currently modernizing its campus and expanding its research capacity and education services to provide the best avenue for advanced learning in the NMI.

The college has secured close to $100 million from granting agencies including the U.S. Department of Education, the Economic Development Administration, the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief program under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With 85% of its campus blown away, NMC was among the areas hit hardest when Super Typhoon Yutu knocked down Saipan in October 2018.

“My goal is to break ground on at least one building by 2022,” Deleon Guerrero told the Journal. “We are currently working on securing A&E design firms and contractors and look forward to beginning construction within the next two years.”

Deleon Guerrero is referring to the primary development facilities that will constitute NMC’s new campuses, based on the Facilities Master Plan adopted by its Board of Regents.

This includes the Plant Bio Tech Lab; the Student Center; the Workforce Development and Training Center; the Center for Research, Extension, and Development building; the Facilities and Procurement building; two Multi-use Classrooms and Services buildings; and the Gymnatorium (Gymnasium + Auditorium).

The Northern Marianas College has a detailed plan for its reconstruction
Image courtesy of Northern Marianas College

The WDTC building will house the School of Nursing and the School of Business, along with the Community Development Institute and the Small Business Development Center.

The Multi-use Classrooms buildings, on the other hand, will house the School of Education, and the following departments: Natural Resource Management; Science, Math, Health and Athletics; Language & Humanities and Social Science & Fine Arts; and Criminal Justice.

Also integral is the modernization of the NMC’s infrastructure for Information Technology, and the building of technological capacity.

“The devastating typhoons of the past few years compelled everyone at the College to enhance what we can do online with our IT infrastructure. So, when the pandemic hit, we were ideally positioned to smoothly transition to online learning and teleworking. All of this has underscored the need to reinforce our IT infrastructure to increase bandwidth, strengthen security, and ensure that learning and operations can continue no matter what challenges come our way,” Deleon Guerrero said.

The Facilities Master Plan also addresses the issues and challenges that college grounds currently have — aging infrastructure and outdated classrooms, inadequate laboratory space, need for improved technology, rising maintenance burden, lack of outdoor facilities, aged building systems, growing enrollment and expanding programs, among others.

“Our new campuses will allow us to accommodate more students and more programs,” Deleon Guerrero said. “We look forward to working with government leaders and community partners to increase and diversify funding and resources for the college so that we can hire more faculty, launch more programs, and serve more stakeholders in our community.”

NMC’s academic programs currently has an enrollment of more than 1,300 students with about 150 faculty, staff, and administrators. This is for two bachelor’s degree programs in education and business, plus its associate degree programs.

In addition to the enrollees, the college also serves hundreds in the community through programs in Adult Basic Education; Cooperative Research, Extension, and Education Services; the Community Development Institute; and the Small Business Development Center.

“The Proa Tribe has proven to be remarkably resilient, despite four nationally declared disasters, austerity measures, and the COVID-19 pandemic, all within the past six years. While many colleges and universities saw their enrollment decline during the pandemic, NMC’s enrollment not only stabilized but increased a bit. Everyone at the College is Proa Strong and Marianas Strong,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Building state-of-the-art facilities that meet the curricular and co-curricular needs of all college programs is among the goals set by Deleon Guerrero for NMC, as part of a fresh vision for the college when he assumed his role as president in May of this year.

Deleon Guerrero’s vision is to streamline governance and organizational structures in NMC, expand research capacity and four-year degree programs, and improve student achievement rates through strategic goals.

He also spoke about cultivating NMC employees by offering competitive compensation and benefits; securing financial vitality by diversifying revenue streams; and ensuring quality across the institution through systematic improvement processes.

“[One goal is to] invest in our economy with innovative, adaptive, and relevant programs that meet workforce needs, promote entrepreneurial initiatives, and cultivate creative problem-solving skills; [and to] empower students to succeed before and after graduation with a wider range of relevant and engaging programs, targeted student support services, and accelerated curricular and career pathways,” he said

The intent is for the college to “lift the tide” for everyone as it “sails ahead” with a sharp vision on education.

“Numerous studies have shown that having even just an associate’s degree improves one’s quality of life, whether that be a higher income, a healthier lifestyle, or more civic engagement. More importantly, as areas like Silicon Valley and countries like Singapore demonstrate, an educated citizenry is key to any successful society.”

“My greatest reward is seeing former students succeed long after school, whether as pioneers in business, innovators in education, or leaders in the community,” he said.

According to Deleon Guerrero, for 40 years, NMC has contributed to the vitality of the NMI, helping farmers through the CREES programs, providing schools with teachers through the School of Education, and meeting the island’s workforce training needs through the Community Development Institute, to name a few.

“As a lifelong learner and educator, I am honored to join the college in continuing this legacy of making the CNMI one of the most educated and successful places in the world.” mbj