Office of the President

Search for the New Vice President of Student Services at Otero Junior College

OJC Announces Five Semi-finalists for the Position

President AlvarezThe search committee, comprised of college faculty, staff and a student have conducted screenings and preliminary interviews with applicants in order to identify those best suited for this important leadership position at Otero.

All semi-finalists have been invited to campus for a one day visit and will be on campus either March 4th, 5th or 7th. A campus forum is planned for each afternoon of these visits for faculty, staff, students and college constituents to learn more about their experience, leadership style and philosophies. A detailed agenda will be released when plans have been finalized. Feedback surveys will be given to all those who attend the campus forums. The surveys will be reviewed by President Alvarez prior to selection of the new VPSS.

This position is vital in providing the leadership necessary to achieve our strategic initiatives in supporting the success of our students. You are strongly encouraged to attend the forums and provide feedback so we can invite the most talented candidate to join our OJC campus community.


The semi-finalists are:

• Dr. Sara Mata – NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Program Coordinator
• Ms. Angela Moore – Director of Financial Aid
• Dr. Elizabeth Sterns Sims – Former Chief Student Affairs Officer/Title IX Coordinator
• Dr. Melissa Stutz – Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
• Dr. Katy Troester-Trate – Dean of Students/Director of Jefferson Community School

Sara Mata

Dr. Sara Mata

PhD - Social Foundations

Sara Mata is the current National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program Coordinator at the University of Oklahoma. She also has career experience at Northern Oklahoma College, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Oklahoma State University. Sara began her career in student services as an outreach counselor focused on small, rural communities. Her work has been focused on promoting access to higher education and specifically supporting underrepresented students and strengthening educational endeavors, with bridge programs, academic programming, career preparation and graduate education. She states that her work has taught her the importance of building collaborative partnerships with departments, faculty and programs to support student’s academic success. She has specific interest in community college and engaging in opportunities to build partnerships to promote holistic student success, contribute to developing data drive institutional understanding and collaborate with institutional stakeholders to advocate for inclusiveness, engagement and excellence in student services and academic achievement.


Angela Moore

Ms. Angela Moore

Masters of Business - Higher Education Administration and Leadership

Angela Moore is the current Director of Financial Aid at Otero Junior College. She has been an employee with OJC since 2011 working in TRiO Student Support Services and as the Assistant Financial Aid Director. With direct experience in the field of student affairs and specifically OJC, Angela understands the mission behind a successful student services department. She has gained extensive experience creating an inclusive environment for first-generation, low-income and students of color while working in the financial aid office of the vast diversity of students served at OJC. She has made it a priority to ensure that all students are equally educated on their financing options and understand their rights and responsibility of being a student. Because she is the Director of Financial Aid, she has served as second in command to the current Vice President of Student Services in office management, staff supervision, and reporting and compliance. Angela is an OJC Rattler through and through and takes great pride in the successes of students and their stories. She is dedicated to the OJC student populations and will continue to practice OJC’s mission and vision daily by coming to work every day with an attitude that fosters the energy needed to enhance the students’ experiences, reach their educational goals, and expand their employment opportunities.


Elizabeth Sterns Sims

Dr Elizabeth Sterns Sims

EdD – Adult and Post-Secondary Education

Elizabeth Sterns Sims has most recently served as the Chief Student Affairs Officer/Title IX Coordinator at Helena College, University of Montana. She also has experiences at Mountwest Community and Technical College, Paul Smith’s College, Sheridan College and Bowie State University. Elizabeth’s main charge was to bring coherence to the Student Affairs departments to function as a collective whole, while developing a sense of community for students. She provided systematic review of the processes and procedures to improve student persistence, institutional retention and sound fiscal management. This included implanting effective programming utilizing best practices, analyze and develop solutions, data collection and assessments. She also was the senior leader and supervised the areas of Recruitment, Marketing, Admissions, Retention, Registrar, Testing, Advising, Transfer Services, Career Services, Financial Aid and Default Prevention, Dual Enrollment, Disability Resources, Food Services, Retail Services, Veteran Resources, TRiO-SSS, Student Programming, Wellness Programming, Student Support Center and the Welcome Center. Elizabeth credits the success in her professional life to creating good relationships, and trusting those who report to her by supporting them to do their jobs of supporting students in meeting their educational goals.


Melissa Stutz

Dr. Melissa Stutz

EdD – Leadership in Higher Education

Melissa Stutz is currently serving the University of Wisconsin Colleges as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. She also has experiences at Roosevelt University, McHenry County College and Columbia College of Missouri. In her current position, she has faced enrollment challenges and low overall morale. By studying and identifying gaps in this system, she was able to implement structural changes and close the enrollment decline by 11% in one year. She approached this task by conducting a thorough assessment including data analysis, listening, learning, fostering relationships and creating a strategic enrollment management plan with goals and objectives closely tied to the institutional strategic goals. This plan was an institutional collaborative effect. Because of diligence with a transparent and inclusive approach to soliciting input and feedback the process was highly successful and provides the best experience for students. Melissa wants to be a part of a college with integrity and commitment to diversity, inclusion and student-centeredness for the future. She understands what it takes to lead a team – not just manage.


Katy Troester-Tate

Dr. Katy Troester-Trate

EdD – Leadership in Higher Education

Katy Troester-Trate has served as the Dean of Students/Director of Jefferson Community School at the State University of New York Jefferson. She also has experiences at Nazareth College and the College at Brockport, Diakon Family Life Services and Susquehanna University. With a background in social work, she leads a staff of 22 within the departments of Health & Wellness, Jefferson Community School grant program, Title IX, Office of Violence Against Women grant program, Student Activities & Inclusion, Student Life, New Student Services, Residence Life, Conduct and Campus Advocate Services. Her research has focused on first generation, low-income, and non-traditional student retention and persistence. Katy received the Woman of Distinction award from New York State Senator Patty Ritchie in 2018. In 2016, she was recognized as 20 under 40 Emerging Leaders Award from Northern New York Business Magazine. She serves on boards in her community as she believes in order to serve the students of a campus community, she must be immersed in the greater community. She has a high degree of visibility on campus and looks forward to interacting with students and their daily lives.



President's Welcome

Timothy Alvarez welcomes you to Otero Junior College.

Advisory Council

About the Otero Junior College Advisory Council members.

OJC Foundation

Help support Otero Junior College. College alumni and the President's Leadership Program.


Otero Junior College Continues to Expand and Evolve

Otero Junior College has had a number of changes in 2018 and many things to look forward to in 2019. Long-time OJC President Jim Rizzuto retired in July of 2018. Rizzuto served as President at OJC for 17 and half years.

During Rizzuto’s tenure, the college benefited greatly from his leadership. Some of his most notable accomplishments on behalf of the college include being the recipient of several multiple-million dollar grants for STEM, business, healthcare, and various technical training programs. Other notable highlights include leading the college to become a Hispanic serving institution, developing strong partnerships with 4-year universities to increase transfer opportunities for students, and adding several athletic sports that include; men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s rodeo, and men’s wrestling.

To find a replacement for Rizzuto, the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) conducted a five-month national search. In April Dr. Nancy J. McCallin, former president of the CCCS announced that Dr. Timothy Alvarez would be the fifth president of OJC.


Otero Junior College Welcomes Dr. Alvarez

OJC President Dr. Alvarez walking and throwing candy in the Arkansas Valley Fair Parade. Dr. Alvarez joined OJC as president in July of 2018.

Dr. Alvarez had been serving as the Senior Fellow for NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education prior to joining OJC as president. From 2014-2018, he served as Vice President for Student Affairs at North Dakota State University. Prior to his role in North Dakota, Dr. Alvarez spent 15 years in various leadership and teaching roles at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he also received his Ph.D. in educational leadership.

Dr. Alvarez explained that he truly wants OJC to be the best rural community college in Colorado, and beyond. “I am hoping we will consider cutting edge programs that might allow us to recruit new students and, subsequently, allow us to have a positive impact on our community.” Dr. Alvarez stated. “We want La Junta to thrive and believe we should play a positive role in that progress. Further, we continue to explore best practices that will help us serve some of our most vulnerable students. Regardless of your station in life, you can succeed here and flourish after you leave. In order to accomplish these ambitious goals, we will need to develop intentional fundraising goals and practices, that will help us minimize student debt, while also providing a world class educational experience for all of our students.”

The 2018-2019 OJC volleyball team pictured. They were ranked 19 in the nation this past fall.

OJC’s students were very busy in 2018. Four students were named to the Phi Theta Kappa All Colorado Academic Team. Andrew Burton, Aurora, Colo., was honored on March 10, 2018, at the Colorado/Wyoming Regional Phi Theta Kappa Convention in Cheyenne, Wyo., as a 2017- 2018 Distinguished Chapter Officer. OJC hosted the Region IX Men’s Baseball Tournament. The OJC men’s basketball team competed in the National Tournament on Feb. 15 – Feb. 18, in Hutchison, Kan. Otero Junior College International student, Anastasia Zykova attended the Harvard Model of the United Nations (M.U.N) conference in Cambridge, MA. The M.U.N is a chance for students to express their ideas and see what the U.N. discusses at their meetings. The Otero Players presented their Production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame in April. Mason Mardesich, Gridley, Calif., was named Central Rocky Mountain Region (CRMR) Saddle Bronc Champion for the second year in a row. Head Rodeo Coach Linsay Rosser-Sumpter was named CRMR Coach of the Year. Several sophomore athletes signed with four-year universities. This past fall the OJC Volleyball team was ranked 19th in the nation and competed in the Region IX South Tournament.

Mysti Johnson, La Junta, is a student enrolled in the TPREP program with the University of Colorado Denver to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at OJC.

OJC continued its partnership with the University of Colorado (CU) Denver to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. OJC anticipates an expansion to not only offer a Bachelor’s Degree in in Elementary Education, but to also offer secondary education majors in math and science. The first group of students will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education this spring. They will be recognized at OJC’s graduation and will also be able to walk at CU Denver’s graduation.

This spring semester OJC has fully launched its new welding program. Ryan Phillips joined OJC to lead the welding program as welding faculty. Fifteen students are currently enrolled in the program this semester. The area previously used for the automotive program underwent renovations for the new program. The program is designed to prepare students to obtain entry-level employment in agriculture, production, and maintenance environments, as well as railroad and pipeline industries. It will allow enrollment of both secondary and post-secondary students.

A music program is currently being developed at OJC. Part-time faculty member Dr. James Lind has joined OJC full-time to begin the process of creating a music program. He will be working to build the program and recruit students for Fall Semester 2019. The program plans to offer classes in music theory, ear training, music history and music appreciation.

Amanda Clerkin joined OJC as Nursing Director and will help OJC offer a Bachelor’s of Science (BSN) in Nursing Degree. It is anticipated that OJC will offer a BSN in 2020.

The college also has expanded its offerings of eight week courses. The content of these courses have been normally offered in a 15-week format that has been compressed down to an intense 8-week format.

The section of McDivitt Hall that has been used for the Agriculture Science program is being renovated along with an addition to the building. The college received $1.3 million from the Colorado State Legislature Capital Development Committee to assist with the project. The project is in the beginning stages. OJC is still working to put a horticulture program in place and will soon begin to advertise for instructors.

Students at OJC enjoying the Welcome Back BBQ hosted before the Fall Semester 2018 started at OJC.

Otero Junior College is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Accreditation (HLC) through 2026. After HLC representatives visited OJC in 2016, OJC was required to submit several interim reports. Three interim reports were submitted and approved in the summer of 2018. Two additional reports will be submitted in the summer of 2019.

OJC’s Health Navigator Program has expanded to reach more students. The program is now offered as a cooperative program among three southern Colorado colleges; Otero Junior College, Lamar Community College and Trinidad State Junior College. This new opportunity will allow more students to enroll and complete the program. Students will take the basic courses through one of the three colleges closest to them, and then finish the degree online through OJC.

The total number of current staff at the college is 201 of which 116 are full-time and 85 are part-time. OJC receives about 55% of its funding from the state of Colorado, with the remainder coming from student tuition and fees.

The OJC Foundation was active over the past year, helping to raise scholarship funds for OJC students. In the 2018-2019 academic year the Foundation will award approximately $45,000 in scholarships and will provide over $24,000 in program support. A large number of donations come from individuals in our community. The OJC Foundation could not assist students without the communities’ support and dedication.

On May 4, OJC will graduate its 77th class.


Dr. Alvarez and students

Alvarez Seeks to Make a Difference at Otero Junior College

“It’s always been an interest and a passion for me to help the vulnerable populations and populations who would have been like me when I earned my associates degree,” Alvarez said. “I’d like Otero to be an engine of social mobility. I don’t care who you are, what walk of life you come from, if you come to this campus, I hope that we’re able to help you achieve whatever goals you might have and that once you leave here that you have the skills to either be fully employed or go on to finish a four-year degree.”

Read the entire blog post by Dan Silva, Communications Manager, Bellevue University

Alvarez wants his students to start thinking differently. He eschews the traditional ‘what’s your major?’ question and instead asks ‘what difference do you want to make in the world?’

“Oftentimes, students are not prepared to answer that question, but they’ll come back later and say ‘I’ve thought about it. Here’s what I want to do.’  Ninety percent of the time it has nothing to do with the major or discipline, it has to do with their purpose and their passion.”