Our President

President Figueroa

In my short but action-packed time here in Northern Kentucky, one theme has emerged: Gateway is valued and has a great story to tell. As I hear this over and over. Our community believes in the mission of Gateway because when Gateway succeeds, the entire community succeeds with a trained workforce, engaged and productive citizens and economic prosperity.

Gateway is much more than buildings and programs: we are a community where students find confidence, collaboration, compassion and success.

We cultivate learners and divergent thinkers, aware of their talents and equipped with the tools to share those talents in their communities.

We are integral to the economic success and growth of Northern Kentucky.

We are committed to listening, adapting and empowering our students and with the community.

We are providers of relevant education that not only improves student lives, but also the lives of those around them.

We are Northern Kentucky's only community and technical college!

figueroa signature

President, Gateway Community & Technical College


Dr. Fernando Figueroa is the president of Gateway Community & Technical College in Northern Kentucky. He has served students in higher education for 25 years from classroom instruction to all aspects of administration.

Most recently, as vice chancellor for educational policy at Dallas County Community College in Texas, Dr. Figueroa worked to develop and expand dual credit and early college pathways, competency based education, student success initiatives and partnerships for workforce and economic development. As provost/vice president of instruction and student services at Del Mar College, he aligned academic and student services to ensure student success.

A native of New Orleans, Dr. Figueroa appreciates a good Cafe Au Lait and a great Rock n Roll riff. He enjoys playing guitar, and recording and publishing his own music. Other favorite past times include writing and collecting fountain pens because he believes writing is art in itself. Dr. Figueroa and his wife Debbie, a professional artist, share four wonderful children, three grandchildren and two fur babies.

Dr. Figueroa holds a Ph.D. and Master of Arts in English from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Loyola University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Today, we are celebrating Gateway Community & Technical College and the values we hold dear which reflect the values of our Northern Kentucky community. We celebrate our hopes and aspirations for each of our citizens as they work to find their way to a better life.

And with all the energy felt in our region in this "our time," to paraphrase the NKY Chamber's theme for this year, Gateway pledges to be a force for good as we work to make this wave of economic prosperity raise the aspiration and attainments of all who live here.

I say a force for good because we can sometimes get lost in the forms of our enterprises. We can get so confused that we construct buildings, start businesses and initiate programs but forget that these are just forms. They matter because they represent our values. They show us what we believe.

At Gateway, we know we are more than buildings and programs. All of Northern Kentucky is more than just the forms of business and education and government. We are a community. A family. The buildings, businesses and programs exist to create the community we want for ourselves and our children.

I believe that we can create anything if we remember that the forms are not what matter. We are what matters. Forms can change. We can change them. Our desire for the good of the community is what will help us navigate the challenges facing our region today as we ask, "what's next?"

As Gateway explores its emerging role in what's next, it is amazing how students and the college share a similar journey. Like our students, we are finding our way in the emerging education and workforce development landscape. We are also being molded by the disruptive discoveries in technology and the rapid pace of change in our key industries, and even in the ways we govern ourselves.

Manufacturing, transportation, construction, logistics, IT, business and health fields have all experienced radical shifts in the ways they operate, and higher education is no different. We may have proceeded more slowly than many of these industries, but our colleges and universities, like our students, are challenged to adapt now to the current and anticipated future needs of our communities.

Like our students, we are looking for pathways that support our values and will give us energy to face the challenges that face us. We both face the challenge that many don't know us well enough and what we can do just yet: the challenge of making our stories known. We share the desire to find the power of our talents and apply them to meaningful work and careers that span our lives rather than the lines in a resume.

I also would propose that our Northern Kentucky community is in this similar journey to define and grow into its next act. We are looking for our best self that promotes the economic vitality and well-being of all of our folks. The future is wide open. So much is going on and many pieces are in play. At Gateway, we are focusing on what is essential to make sure we are the drivers of the community we want to create and are not merely reacting to the forces bumping up against us.

Some of you are aware of my affinity for Asian culture and especially Tai Chi. Tai Chi has given me healthy ways to accept and use what can often appear to be overwhelming energies and opportunities. For you can be sure that opportunity often carries the face of chaos on first glance, hence the Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times."

I think that is why the martial arts were born. Through its own history of chaos and opportunity, the Chinese monks developed ways to work and ground the energy and make its usable for the greater good. Tai Chi taught me to enter any adventure with a bow to the "opponent." Note, I did not say enemy. For in Tai Chi, there are no enemies, just an awareness that there are always energies that support us and confront us, and both giving energy to mature and grow stronger.

I have also learned from my Tai Chi practice that just taking the time to pay attention to the energy in play is often the hardest and most rewarding practice. Not to always jump into action, but to allow the situation to emerge, to pay attention before going into action. Only then, can one act in a way that makes use of the energy given for good. Otherwise, we can flail and act unawares, often leading to unintended consequences that undermine our original intent.

Another practice I am reminded of here in this “dare to be great” moment for Northern Kentucky is the work of Joseph Campbell and his study of the stories we all share, the hero's journey.

We need only remember that George Lucas founded his Star Wars saga on this mythology. And our fascination with super heroes today shows us in stark relief how tuned in we are to this idea of the hero's journey, even if we are sometimes thinking it occurs only on the big screen.

I would argue that this next phase for Gateway, our students and our Northern Kentucky community share some key elements in the hero's journey.

First, there is a call to action. Something has happened to wake the hero-candidate, an awakening that there is more out there than what has been seen before. She encounters an event or "message" that challenges her to seek something "over the rainbow." The would-be hero resists at first and gets lost in details of housekeeping, paying bills, doing their expected duties until they can no longer resist the draw to discovery, that first step through the looking glass, onto the millennium falcon, or out of the Shire.

Then the fun begins. Experiences soon pop up to dissuade, discourage, challenge and sometime threaten the life of the hero. Loss of a mentor or magic item brings her to her knees, and she wonders how she will navigate her next steps. The way seems too dark, the challenges too daunting.

During this time, though, a team comes together, each with distinct talents: sometimes bow and axe and magical staff; sometimes a force and lightsaber; sometimes wisdom, heart and courage. And the coming together of this team, this fellowship of the ring, is what gives the hero the needed support to take one step further into the unknown.

All this wandering with purposeless purpose leads to a culmination where all her talents are tested. Her resolve reaches to its lowest point. Here, she can finally peel away all the distractions and find that still silent voice inside that guides her through the greatest challenge of all, facing the reality of herself, warts and all. In that moment, she can proclaim, "it's all good." With the chaos, all good. With the doubts, all good. With the highs and lows, all good.

It is with this awareness that she then can return home, a person initiated in the talents and wisdom necessary to help her community grow in love and empathy. While breaking the limits of what was once thought impossible to achieve, she helps her community (as our colleagues at CVG have claimed as their brand) to "embrace what's next."

I think it is important to remember that we are all sharing this hero's journey. Our students, the college and our community walk this path together. And together we will succeed if we remember that we are in this together.

I believe we are at this point in Northern Kentucky. Here and now, many talented and wise folks are coming together to ensure we learn how to wisely use the vast amounts of energy from all throughout our community (and even across our rivers). We will embrace that energy and our tools to paint the canvas of the new Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati area.

This journey will not be easy. No hero's journey is, but when I get lost in the static, I like to recall the story of the Zen Archer.

When entering into the competition, the eminently skilled Archer who focuses only on hitting the target is able to do so time and time again. But once the Archer thinks about winning the brass buckle, his hands shake and he misses more than not. When the Archer focuses on the gold prize, he sees two targets and then goes blind.

We at Gateway believe that the doing is what is important. We focus on helping our students, faculty and staff to see what is before them first, and trust that doing the right things for the right reasons will lead to great work: community of folks confident in their talents and designs for their lives.

Where are we on this hero's journey? Gateway is embarking on its journey that demands we reach beyond our comfort zones to embrace our role not only as an institution of higher learning, offering quality programs that lead to a great careers. We are recognizing our steps into the unknown, developing programs never before seen, such as our Enhanced Operator program built with our industry partners. We are focusing in on our role in Northern Kentucky as a force for good, and then creating the infrastructure of programs and facilities that will bring that good to life.

Where is this force for good going? We believe that Northern Kentucky must develop a comprehensive and integrated talent network to ensure a dynamic and adaptable workforce. We believe that this workforce must be given the opportunity to discover their talents and strengths that serve their best selves and the community where they make a contribution.

We must also develop curriculum that provides these pathways to hone talents. We must create designs that work for the dual credit world and for the elusive 25-34-year-old workers who need a path from low-skill jobs to middle skill jobs and points beyond, if that is where their aspiration and talents take them. We have awesomely talented people working in Northern Kentucky on pieces and parts scattered throughout our region. The challenge is to bring them together in a reliable network of opportunities.

Northern Kentucky will find Gateway as a tireless partner and advocate for developing this talent network and workforce development pipeline for our region. To that end, we are working to convene business and industry sectors and discuss how we update our curriculum and adapt delivery of that curriculum to meet the needs of the region.

We are focused on the five sectors identified by the governor and the opportunities provided by the Work Ready Skills initiative and the Work Ready Scholarship program. We will work with our business and industry partners, our legislative caucus and local elected leadership to develop a coherent regional strategy for Gateway and the use of its campuses. This collaboration can help us develop program sponsorships with job pathways lined out as part of our curriculum and not just as a next step after graduation.

What do we need from the community? Bring us your ideas. Bring us your passion for the region. Give us a chance to tell our story and share that story with your networks of committed and awesomely talented teams. We will have asks for our community. We are working to be worthy of those asks.

We would love you to consider serving on our Foundation Board or on one of our program advisory groups. Or helping us make stronger connections to parent groups at our local K-12 partners. This is the time to tell our stories, Northern Kentucky! We promise to make our parts of the story worth the read.

I will end with this. I have been blessed to make some new friends in Northern Kentucky. Many of you are in the audience today. I will risk naming one because what he shared with me from his experience with Toyota sums up nicely this moment for Gateway. Dave Fleischer shared at Toyota, there would be long deliberations and considerations of multiple plans for a global company thinking about next steps. But all deliberation stopped when the person designated for making the final decision would lean forward and say one word, Yosh! That one word sets the plan in motion, with all units pulling in the same direction.

At Gateway, the role of saying that word belongs to the president, hence the importance of the whole installation thing. This speech is my Yosh. I agree with the NKY Chamber. There is a palpable energy growing in Northern Kentucky. Gateway feels it too. We are using that energy to cultivate talent, engage our community, and change lives.


letter from the president

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year and beginning of our 2018 spring semester!

One thing I love about a New Year is the chance to reflect on the past year's values and see which ones we have chosen to carry on into the New Year.

These time-tested values transcend the specific events of any particular year. They become our trusted companions, guiding us through the worst storms. These values give meaning and power to our strategic plan.

When I reflect on the values Gateway brings to our community, I come to the same theme time and again: Gateway exists to help our community members find a better life. To be with Gateway is to stand with this ambition for a better life.

This theme ties directly to the first part of our strategic plan: Strategically position Gateway Community & Technical College within the comprehensive educational landscape of the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati Region. This is what we bring to every community partnership.
Last year, my New Year's resolution was to focus on promoting Gateway as the place where people find their hope, resilience and talent.

Today, I'm excited to report out on our impact over the last year.
Creating Career Opportunities

Our Commercial Driver's License (CDL) Training program excelled over the past year, graduating nearly 150 students. Our graduates are in high demand in the local trucking industry.
Gateway's four-week CDL training program is designed for individuals with little or no commercial driving experience, and it prepares students for an entry-level position in the trucking industry.
Gateway graduate, Daniel Cintron, obtained his CDL from Gateway and was immediately hired by Paschall Truck Lines. A few months later, he was promoted to Certified Driver Trainer.  He is just one of the many success stories.
Local companies who hire Gateway drivers are so happy with the quality of instruction they are now sending their employees to Gateway for training.
Cultivating Community Leaders
At 45, Ric Smith's road to college success at Gateway Community & Technical College has not been easy, but because of his tenacity, he has a bright future ahead. For most people faced with his circumstances, that may not have been the case.
"My parents decided it would be better if they withdrew me from the 10th grade to get a job and take care of my siblings so that the household could continue to flourish," Ric said. "It didn't matter about my future. At that time, I was actually third in my class out of 375."
Ric went on to earn a GED, but quickly realized that was not going to cut it in today's world. He worked in a variety of jobs in the hospitality industry training others who went on to be his boss because they had a degree and he didn't. He finally reached a tipping point where he knew the only way to change his circumstances was to return to college.
He's now enrolled in computer programming and working toward an associate degree. Additionally, he tutors his fellow students, was elected Gateway's student government association president and was nominated to represent students on the KCTCS Board of Regents.
He credits the faculty and staff at Gateway for helping him to have the confidence to try new things and pursue not only education options he hadn't considered, but also his extracurricular and leadership positions.
"So I have all these people that are seeing the potential in me that I didn't think was there," he said. "Or wasn't there until they ignited the spark. For whatever reason, they are continuing to build me up. Where I started out barely thinking I was going to get through two years, now my goals are to get a bachelor's degree and go on to get a master's degree."
Expanding Transfer Options

Earning a bachelor's degree from a private four-year university in Cincinnati will now be possible for many more local students thanks to an expanded articulation agreement between Gateway and Mount St. Joseph University. We expanded our agreement to make it much easier for our students who complete associate degree programs to seamlessly apply their credit hours toward earning a bachelor's degree at Mount St. Joseph University (MSJ).
Students will have the potential to save up to $44,000 while completing their bachelor's degree at MSJ. In addition, students may be eligible for as much as $10,000 a year in special transfer scholarships from MSJ.
I'm pleased that we were able to strengthen our partnership with MSJ. This agreement strengthens student pathways and offers limitless possibilities.
These are just a few of the many successes that Gateway was honored to participate in over the past year. I'm looking forward to see how we can help to drive economic development and continue to help our community members find a better life in 2018.

Stay tuned for another update next month.

Happy New Year!
Gateway Community & Technical College
letter from the president
Dear Friends,
For this month's newsletter, I want to talk about value, specifically reflecting on the value that Gateway Community & Technical College brings to the community. I want to bring your attention to some results from a research study conducted by Emsi, a nationally recognized labor market analytics firm, that we engaged in to determine the economic impact of Gateway has on our community.

When we think about the value, we think about return on investment and what we are growing and cultivating in our community with our resources. I want to share with you Gateway's return on investment.
for every dollar invested by


  • Gateway's students paid a total of $6.2 million to cover the cost of tuition, fees, supplies, and interest on student loans. They also forwent $16.6 million in money that they would have earned had they been working instead of learning.
  • In return for the money they invested in the college, students will receive a present value of $150.9 million in increased earnings over their working lives. This translates to a return of $6.60 in higher future earnings for every $1 that students invest in their education.


  • In FY 2015-16, Kentucky taxpayers paid $9.3 million to support our college. The value of the added tax revenue stemming from the students' higher lifetime earnings and the increased output of businesses amounts to $51.8 million in benefits to taxpayers.
  • Savings to the public sector add another $3.3 million in benefits due to a reduced demand for government-funded services.
  • Dividing benefits to taxpayers by the associated costs yields a 5.9 benefit-cost ratio. In other words, every $1 in costs returns $5.90 in benefits.
  • The economic base in Kentucky will grow by $521.5 million over the course of the students' working lives. Society will also benefit from $13.9 million in present value social savings related to reduced crime, lower unemployment, and increased health and well-being across the state.
  • For every dollar that society spent on Gateway, society will receive a cumulative value of $10.10 in benefits, for as long as the FY 2015-16 student population at Gateway remains active in the state workforce.
With the help of Emsi, we are able to put a dollar value on the impact we make to our current students, alumni, the community, taxpayers and to society as a whole. This information is great news for Gateway and the Northern Kentucky region!
Stay tuned for another update next month.
Gateway Community & Technical College

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