If chosen, Okada would bring expertise to University of Guam
By Frank Whitman
If Mary Okada is selected to be the next president of the University of Guam, she plans to use her expertise and the experience she has gained from the past 16 years as president and CEO of Guam Community College to provide and expand opportunities for higher education on Guam and throughout the region.
In addition to her strength “in the fiscal arena,” she has established relationships in the local, national and federal education communities. “I’ve been able to navigate and to nurture those relationships,” she said.
“I think the relationship-building I’ve been able to maintain over the past several years has really brought recognition to higher education here on Guam and the ability to expand not just in the physical footprint through construction, but also services that are available for students," Okada added.
She noted that the GCC campus facilities have undergone extensive upgrades during her tenure. “I think I can also offer that expertise here at the university,” she said.
The affordability of tuition rates and their sustainability, an ongoing topic of concern at the university, would need to be examined, along with the overall status of the university’s finances, before she could determine whether they could be maintained at their current level. She noted that fiscal stability is a requirement for accreditation.
“Of course, the goal for the university, in the course of conversations I’ve had with many individuals, is to try to maintain the current rates for the tuition in addition to seeking other resources and trying to increase the amount of resources that are available so that tuition is not increased,” Okada said.
The island’s three public education institutions – Guam Department of Education, GCC and UOG – all aim to support students “through their educational journey starting from K – 12 through post-secondary whether it continues through the community college or through the University of Guam,” she said.
“One of the things we have been working on for many years is articulation agreements. We want to ensure that the university is supported through those articulation agreements so that students who are here on Guam don’t have to go elsewhere to get their educational degrees.”
Articulation agreements allow a student’s credits to count at different institutions. It’s an “educational bridge” so students do not have to retake the same course when they move from one school to another, she said.
“Because I am familiar with the community college I think that’s going to be an advantage,” she said. “There have been several other relationships that I think we can continue to support in terms of faculty development as well.”
Okada is also a member of the Pacific Post-secondary Education Council. “So it’s not just a relationship between UOG and GCC, but it’s also the relationship between the PPEC member institutions that are from our region and supporting them through the college, but also supporting from the University of Guam.”
Okada said she sees other opportunities in the region as well as with the military buildup in Guam. “I think there is an excellent opportunity for us to also reach out into our region of Micronesia to offer the same educational opportunities that are available to residents here on Guam because it helps to strengthen the capacity of not just Guam but our region’s economic stability as well,” she said.
As the military expands on Guam, the university will be well-positioned to provide training for post-buildup occupations that will be needed by the Department of Defense in Guam.
Okada is one of three finalists still under consideration for the position. She met with members of Guam media at the university on April 26.
Other finalists are Anita Borja Enriquez, senior vice president for academic and student affairs at UOG, and LeGene Quesenberry, an attorney and consultant in private practice. Separate press briefings will be held for the other finalists in the coming weeks.