November 01, 2022

OCAT Director Brings Leadership, Experience to Unit

The Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) is a vital resource of connection for so many students and faculty at MSU. OCAT serves the MSU community with a variety of resources that aid students from diverse backgrounds and create a sense of community amongst marginalized groups on campus as well as provides resources to ease the transition from high school to university life. Life on campus can be lonely at times, and OCAT has always served as a bridge to create community — no matter what an individual’s story may be. Although OCAT has long been a pillar of support at MSU, the department operated without a director for more than a decade. Other levels of faculty and staff supported OCAT of their own accord, but this year it was decided a leadership position was needed to assist with the many duties and responsibilities provided by the office.

This summer, OCAT announced a new director had been chosen: Dr. Samuel Saldívar. 

The selection process for the new director was vigorous and intentional. During the beginning of the interview process, there were 15 candidates who went through multiple rounds of interviews. As time passed, that number increased to 30, and then 50 candidates who were interviewed, but OCAT found that none of them were quite the right fit. OCAT took this selection process seriously, and though the selection process was strenuous, the group carried on and continued their search for the perfect candidate.

Candidates were subject to interviews with administration during the selection process and were asked to create presentations on their qualifications, attend luncheon events to interact with students, and were observed on their interactions with specific identity groups. The selection process was seeking to stay away from the traditional singular interview selection process, due to the fact that the OCAT director would be taking on a great amount of responsibility not only with administration, but with the students who rely on OCAT for a sense of community. The interview process was focused on the candidate’s interaction with the community and their self-presentation.

OCAT was looking for a candidate with great research experience and experience in administration spaces. It was important the new director be open-minded, equipped with great leadership skills and able to communicate effectively to a diverse student body. After what seemed like an endless stream of candidates who didn’t fit the bill, OCAT came to find their perfect candidate. Dr. Samuel Saldívar has been working as the multicultural education coordinator within the department of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (IDI) since July 2020. Given that he began in this position amid COVID-19, it is safe to say that Dr. Saldívar was up for the challenge. 

“It is very exciting to finally have a director after 15 to 17 years, someone with the mentality of a servant leader — that’s been the most fulfilling aspect so far,” says Murray Edwards, assistant director of OCAT.

He met the requirements OCAT was looking and had been known for his gift of connecting with students and faculty on a level that went beyond the formality typically associated with administration. It was apparent Dr. Samuel Saldívar was open minded to all viewpoints and perspectives and highly valued teamwork over arbitrary levels of administrative hierarchy — he views himself as part of a team, rather than working above others.

“I am really excited to see the work and the initiatives that Sam will bring into conversation with us, as staff members, and with our students that we work with directly and indirectly,” says Anna Lin, coordinator and adviser of the Asian Pacific American Student Organization (APASO). “I also look forward to the larger conversations happening at this university.”

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