For nearly three decades, Eric Rivera has dedicated his life to advancing access, student success and achievement for all students in higher education. Mr. Rivera’s career in higher education spanned four institutions across the country and two of the largest state university systems in the nation (California State University and State University of New York). For the last 22 years, he served the community of San Diego through his work at San Diego State University (SDSU), most currently as their Vice President for Student Affairs.
Born and raised in the Bronx in New York City to immigrant parents who did not speak English, Mr. Rivera was the first in his family to go away and graduate from college. As a first-generation college student, he experienced firsthand the complexity and challenges of navigating college, facing obstacles his peers didn’t experience. This experience formed the foundation of his motivation to ensuring all students have the capital when entering college, and the importance of aligning campus resources with student access and student success strategies.
As Vice President for Student Affairs at SDSU, Mr. Rivera is responsible for the strategic planning and analysis of the division and has direct oversight for administering the division’s $60-million budget. Under his leadership, the division of Student Affairs significantly expanded learning communities and student support centers – such as the Black Resource Center, Commuter Resource Center, the Pride Center, Women’s Resource Center, and the Undocumented Resource Area. Mr. Rivera built the nationally recognized Aztec Parents Program which connects families to the university through meaningful programs, and established SDSU as a national leader in parent programs, alongside Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, according to publications like the Los Angeles Times.
During Mr. Rivera’s time at SDSU, the university has grown from a regional university into one that is nationally recognized for its mission of access; academic and research excellence; and global focus. Mr. Rivera has played important roles in developing transformational educational opportunities, enhancing and expanding the campus’s physical landscape, and leveraging SDSU’s rich diversity to maximize the personal and academic success of all students. These efforts contributed to raising retention and graduation rates for all students while nearly eliminating achievement gaps among ethnic and racial groups. The university was recognized by The Education Trust as one of only 26 universities in the country that have increased graduation rates for all students while nearly eliminating achievement gaps among ethnic and racial groups.
At SDSU, while the overall graduation rate is 75.3%, African American students are graduating at 72.0%; Latino students at 72.5%; and low-income first-generation students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) are graduating at 71.1%. Most recently, SDSU was named a Top 100 degree producer by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, ranking No. 17th, recognizing the institution’s strengths in supporting and graduating minority students. The Top 100 report is the only national report on the awarding of degrees to African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American students at U.S. universities and colleges.
Mr. Rivera’s professional affiliations include National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), Council for the Advancement & Support of Education (CASE), Association for the Study of Higher Education, and Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (ASHE & HACU). He served on NASPA’s Latino Knowledge Community Advisory Board and Minority Undergraduate Fellows Program Advisory Board.
In addition to his professional associations, Mr. Rivera is very active in the community. He was a member of the San Diego Community College Trustee’s Advisory Board and the City of San Diego Otay Mesa Planning Group. Mr. Rivera was appointed by the Mayor and City Council to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors from 2002 through 2006; and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Education Committee during 2003-2004. He also currently sits on the San Diego Gas and Electric Advisory Board.
Mr. Rivera was honored with an SDSU Presidential Top 25 Award in 2007 and again in 2010. He was the recipient of an Abrazo award in 2010. He was also the recipient of the NASPA Latino Knowledge Community’s Outstanding Senior Student Affairs Officer Award in March 2007.