Staff Spotlight: Meet Olivia Torres Jojola, Student Success Specialist
June 30, 2022
If you’ve connected with UNM Online recently, you may have spoken with the kind and friendly Student Success Specialist, Olivia Torres Jojola. Though she’s only been at UNM Online for four months, her journey in aiding students is anything but new.
Before joining the UNM Online team, Olivia served as Program Coordinator and Advocate at the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center where, in addition to assisting students, she was responsible for the Lobo Food Pantry operations.
“This position helped me get my footing at UNM,” she says, referring to her four years of prior experience. “I hold everything the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center and Dean of Students do in high regard; connecting with students was a great learning experience for me to really see the challenges they face.”
Her Approach to Advocacy
Being an advocate for students, Olivia knows that students lead complex lives and, in turn, bring varying perspectives to the university. She believes each student colors UNM with their diverse viewpoints and that we all benefit from different perspectives.
“It’s wonderful to have such a lively blend of identities,” she says. “It makes for a vibrant community and endless learning opportunities, as long as we have the empathy and patience to listen.”
In her advocacy practice, she knows that no two students—or challenges students face—are the same. Olivia approaches every student with a kind and compassionate ear, listening and working to develop solutions to issues they come across. After all, she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to balance work, life, and studies.
Her Academic Roots
As a first-generation student, she knew the challenges faced by her father when he immigrated to the U.S. at 21 years of age. He enrolled at UNM in the computer science program and, at the same time, struggled to learn English. While he didn’t finish his degree, he instilled the importance of higher education in his three children.
“He wanted three engineers and instead got a math teacher and two humanities students,” she laughs, referring to her brother, who graduated with a B.S. in Math, and her sister who is currently pursuing a B.A. in English. As a big sister to two Lobos, she’s accustomed to helping others navigate UNM.
Olivia began her academic career set on becoming a chemical engineer. She learned a few hard lessons along the way.
“I failed my Intro to Chemistry course — and I had never failed a class before,” she recalls from her freshman year. “At that point, I told myself, ‘ok, this isn’t going to work. What am I good at instead?’ That way, college could be more approachable.”
This important self-analysis led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in English from UNM where she graduated cum laude with a minor in art history. This wasn’t an easy road, however; she worked 25-30 hours per week at off-campus jobs, all while living on her own and taking a full-time course-load.
“Balancing all the spinning plates of adulthood isn’t easy,” she recalls. “I know the types of sacrifices students experience to succeed.”
Coming from a musical home, she’s extremely passionate about the humanities. Olivia thinks the stereotype of a humanities degree is unfairly represented.
“A lot of people don’t see the value in studying the humanities,” she says. “Many people didn’t understand why I was getting an English degree and couldn’t see a lucrative future for someone who just loved to read.”
Contrary to what others told her, she was able to use her English degree as a staff writer at a local publication. Although the position had its challenges, she values the experience she gained.
“Being a staff writer taught me discipline, care, and attention to detail,” she says. “These are all traits that employers look for, so no matter what you study, you can market yourself as a valuable asset.”
Moving to UNM Online
In her current position at UNM Online, Olivia brings her wealth of experience assisting students and knows how to navigate the University. She especially enjoys the one-on-one aspect of the work.
“At an institution as large as UNM, it can be frustrating to be bounced around and not getting straight answers,” she says. “I’m here to help with that. In terms of University services, I know a lot of the University’s nooks and crannies, the commonly known and lesser-known resources available to students. Even if I don’t know the answer to a problem, I have an influential network across campus and know how to find the right contact for the situation.”
You can connect with Olivia at UNM Online Virtual Office Hours. They’re a way to get individualized support, questions answered, and to learn more about UNM. The sessions are hosted through Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A chat by Zoom is available outside of those hours too. To arrange a meeting, email Olivia at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505-277-9000.