Brief chat with Anita Borja Enriquez
By Dana Williams
Anita Borja Enriquez, incoming president of the University of Guam, wants to combine traditional island values with modern business strategy to serve the university and the people of Guam.
“There's quite a bit of work ahead of us, and I'm excited,” she said. “There are so many gaps in health care, there are so many gaps in the workforce. How can we be part of the solution toward making our communities safer, making our communities more healthy and making our communities thrive?”
Enriquez, UOG’s senior vice president and provost, was selected in June to become the 12th president of the university. She will succeed Thomas Krise, who will retire at the end of his five-year term on Aug. 5.
Enriquez was a finalist for the position in 2018 when Krise was selected. She has held leadership positions at the university for more than 25 years, and has been a business owner and consultant.
“I'm going to be going on a listening tour,” she said. “I used to facilitate strategic planning sessions. So what is the situation analysis? What is our current situation? And have those one-on-one conversations, but also have some focus group opportunities. Speak to our alumni as well.”
She envisions creating think tanks – including a health care think tank, and a future-CEO think tank made up of young junior professionals who will serve as advisers. “How do we ensure that we're in the right pathway toward giving them the types of employee capacity they need in order to excel when they do become CEOs?”
She said the university also needs to work with government agencies. “How do we grow tax revenues? How do we realign the support for education, public education,” she said. “Our public libraries, which are really important, these are two very important components when we think about the ecosystem of support for our workforce, because they serve as a foundation for building literacy.”
As a land grant institution, the university is mandated to serve the general population with research and practical knowledge outside of the classroom. But the goal of community service began long before the institution became a university.
“Our charter as a college, Territorial College of Guam once upon a time, was designed to deliver public value by building the capacity of teachers for the island,” she said, “because we know one of the drivers toward economic development is an educated workforce.”
Today, the mission extends beyond teacher training. “The University of Guam has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of this economy to give them a positive return on taxpayers’ investment. Our charge as a land grant university is to deliver public value,” Enriquez said. “If we are not delivering that public value, if we are not providing solutions to problems, then we may as well shut down.
Are we keeping up with the latest needs? Are we keeping up with the latest technology? Are we working together, collaboratively to deliver cohesively that public value?”
Because the island’s population is relatively small, and the university has limited faculty, Enriquez is a proponent of partnering with larger universities to expand offerings. She points to the partnerships with the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in social work and engineering as examples. Students begin programs on Guam and complete them either online or in person in Hawaii.
The partnerships “provide us with the pipeline of relevancy, but also allow our students, our graduates, an opportunity to pursue a career pathway that would not otherwise have been presented to them, giving them access without necessarily having to leave the island to pursue these opportunities.”
The idea of relevancy is key, Enriquez said. Regardless of the degree, employers want to know what graduates can do to contribute value to their organizations. She is an advocate for internships that give students real-world experience.
“If all you have is a degree program that has filled your head with academic theories and concepts, and yet there's nothing in your portfolio, in your academic studies that gave you relevant engagement with the workforce, then I would much rather hire somebody without a college degree who has built these competencies over the years,” she said.
Enriquez is not in favor of increasing the financial burden to students and families. “My goal is to keep tuition flat,” she said.
She wants to increase enrollment, evaluate offerings to make sure they are relevant and attractive, and look for new revenue opportunities by developing a robust capital campaign.
Enriquez emphasizes the university’s mission, “Ina, Deskubre, Setbe - To Enlighten, to Discover, to Serve.” Her decision to lead the mission came after much reflection and prayer, she said. “I feel like I have an altruistic responsibility to take care of the communities we serve. So my mantra really is transforming lives and advancing communities through ina, deskubre, setbe, employing our island wisdom, values of respect, compassion and community.”