As students, we go through the trials and tribulations of college with one goal in sight, to get an education that will help us have a successful career. Our parents invest in us hoping that one day we will be professionals that contribute to society. And while there are thousands of successful professionals who have gone through Ohio State, one story has come to our attention. He is Javier Rivera Aquino, who has achieved the goal we strive for and who is a well recognized citizen of Puerto Rico.
For Rivera, Ohio State was a turning point in his life. According to him, the university offered him a great learning experience, suitable for the challenges he faced as a professional. Ohio State provided Rivera with a sense of belonging, which converted any differences into that Buckeye pride shared by all. Rivera, a 1996 graduate from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, has served the past four years as an elected official at the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and was recently appointed Secretary of Agriculture of Puerto Rico.
As a student during Gordon Gee’s first tenure as president of Ohio State, Rivera understood the importance of building relationships as much as building knowledge. “Back then, President Gee had a saying which I embraced: ‘Lead through diversity’,” Rivera said. “That perspective allowed me to be inclusive with what I do. The integration of people of different backgrounds and ideas helps me to get a better grasp of not only what needs to be done, but also how to accomplish it.”
Rivera’s time at Ohio State left memories and many friends. One of them is Normando Caban, Director of Undergraduate Recruitment & Development in the Office of Minority Affairs. When asked about his memories of Rivera, Caban stated: “I can distinctly recall Javier when he first arrived as an impressive young man, from the small town of Lares, Puerto Rico. Although Javier initially had some adjustments dealing with his new Ohio environment, he was never lost for words. Javier was quite the leader at OSU, actively involved with OSU Hispanic student concerns and always taking time to help others. He clearly has not forgotten his Buckeye roots, since I often still hear from him, as he directs students from Puerto Rico to OSU.”
With an OSU degree under his belt, Rivera brings a fresh perspective to the position. Among the initiatives to be implemented, Rivera will work on the agency’s Stabilization Plan and will seek to attract capital for innovative farming and ranching and to invest in protecting farmland and water resources. “Like many other states, the government of Puerto Rico is going through a fiscal crisis which has to be taken care of in order to put in place the Agenda for Agro Economic Development,” he explained. “The adoption of new economic models to become competitive while maintaining the quality and wellness of our products and assuring better profits to farmers through value-added chains and niche-marketing are ideas that will be transformed into action,” Rivera emphasized.
The challenges that the new Secretary of Agriculture of Puerto Rico faces are demanding, but he sees opportunity in the Hispanic/Latino community at Ohio State. For Rivera, the Ohio State Latino/Hispanic students can become versatile professionals with the ability to provide sound solutions to the problems our society faces if they make the most of the resources the university has to offer, especially during times of economic distress. “Developing linkages among the many academic offerings and encouraging networks among the diversity of people at Ohio State will broaden the scope of knowledge and will help students become better leaders,” Rivera added.