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Young & Informed: Bettering lives with education (October 18, 2017)

As a student at Northern Marianas College Current Events class, I had the opportunity to interview the NMC President Dr. Carmen Fernandez recently and discovered many interesting tidbits about her and her perspectives on the issues we face today.

Q: Where were you born and raised up? Which college did you attend? Although I was born and raised on Guam, I have been coming to Saipan, Rota and Tinian all my life. For colleges, I attended University of Guam and Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Q: What do you like to do in you spare time? I love to get together with my family and friends.

Q: What did you study for your Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees? What or who motivated you to earn the doctorate degree? I have earned a Bachelor of business administration in Management, a Master of business administration, and a Doctorate of business administration in Human Resource Management. Dr. Wilfred Leon Guerrero, the former President of University of Guam, is whom I owe my doctorate to. I worked with the president when I was a student regent and he hired me to be the student activities director. But he always wanted me to go into teaching at the university, so he was constantly encouraging me to get my doctorate. Then one day, he helped create the Guam Doctoral Fellowship which is a government scholarship. I competed with the first group and was selected. So my entire doctoral education was paid by the fellowship, all tuition, fees, books, and a stipend. The fellowship allowed me 4 years, but I was able to complete my doctorate in less than two years. So I saved the government a lot of money. All is history, and I owe it all to President Leon Guerrero. Thanks, Boss!

Q: What was you first job? Did you like it? Believe it or not, my first job was a clerk in Mr. Jones’ law office in Guam and I loved it. I’m talking about Mr. Bob Jones, the owner of Triple J businesses. This was my first summer job when I was around 14 years old. This clerk job helped me get another office job by accident. My next summer job was under the Federal Youth Conservation Corps where we worked on maintaining parks. It was about two weeks into the job that the director found out that I had office experience, so he put me in the office and I became the overall program coordinator for about 40-50 youth employees. I handled all the administrative work from time and attendance, to payroll, certificates, receptionist, etc. It was fun!

Q: How has your career as the NMC President created value in your life? There’s nothing more valuable than graduation day! That is the best day of my life at NMC – graduation day – it means that we have done our jobs well. All I want is to see our students succeed by completing their degrees and to get a good or better job for themselves and their families. This is what I live for: my motto is STUDENTS FIRST = STUDENTS’ SUCCESS!

Q: What are some memorable and happy moments in your life? The first one would be when I received the Gusi Peace Prize from Manila, Philippines. The prize is awarded to exceptional people in education. The second one would be leading the NMC to reaffirmation of accreditation in 2009.

Q: What is your definition of “success”? What accomplishment are you most proud of? Any goals you are still working toward now? Everyone has their own definition of success. Success to me is when our NMC students graduate with their degrees and those degrees are making life better for them and their families. My most significant goal is to make CNMI the highest in education attainment. The highest percentage in the USA is 38%. We still have a lot of work to do, but this community will get there because of the support of Governor Ralph Torres and the Legislature.

Q: What is your definition of “happiness”? Everyone creates their own happiness. Happiness to me is always being with God, always loving and trusting in Him for my life. He is first and foremost my strength.

Q: What are some of the important current issues in the CNMI that you are concerned about the most? My greatest concern is the impending CW termination in 2019. As a community, we must work faster and with precision to train a workforce to take over as many of the CW jobs as possible.

Q: What are your opinions on some current issues that are happening in our world today?

I don’t think anyone would argue that the North Korea threat is at the top of the list. Day by day, our region is being threatened by North Korea. Second, the biggest global crisis is climate change and global warming. Also, global immigration and the suffering of people who have had to flee their homes due to terrorism and racial tensions are so very sad to me.

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