R is for Thursday Network of Oklahoma, Rose State College, Midwest City
Erica Alvarez, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Rose State College, has been serving as an R is for Thursday advocate for three years.
Kerri Kearney, associate professor of higher education and student affairs in the College of Education, Health and Aviation at OSU, and Lisa Will, affiliated faculty, higher education and student affairs in the College of Education, Health and Aviation at OSU, who jointly nominated Alvarez for the Outstanding Mentor award, describe Alvarez as one of their go-to people.
“She is always smiling and is the first to ask, ‘How can I help?’ Erica challenges students to self-advocate and to think critically and creatively,” says Kearney, who also is founder of the R is for Thursday Network of Oklahoma. “However, she is also keenly aware that students have lives outside of what she or others can see. It is for that reason that she will check in with students to see how they are doing and to make sure the issues have been resolved. It is a genuine care and concern for a student’s well-being.
“Because of this, she develops an ongoing relationship with students as they pursue their personal or professional goals,” adds Kearney. “She wants students to have amazing experiences on her campus. She goes way out of her way in every situation!”
Alvarez also helps students with a variety of practical needs, such as helping them obtain book vouchers quickly, so they don’t get behind in their studies.
In addition, notes Kearney, Alvarez offers her assistance to students attending other colleges in Oklahoma.
Alvarez will help any student who wants to attend college, adds Will. “Her heart is drawn to students who may be marginalized or invisible on the college campus. She wants them to succeed and helps fill in any knowledge gaps that may exist.”
About the Program: R is for Thursday is an Oklahoma-based, research-led initiative that equips individuals to support college-bound foster youth/alumni and foster alumni attending college. R is for Thursday currently defines an R is for Thursday (R4T) student as any person who spent time in an out-of-home placement in any state or country from ages 13 to 18 and who is currently enrolled in or has graduated from college or is college-bound.