By Daniel Hernandez
It has been almost a year since the new dean of Student Services has arrived at Riverside City College and he has already made some positive changes to the campus.
Last November, RCC found a new hire, Thomas A. Cruz-Soto Jr. to fill the position of dean of Student Services.
“He has done an amazing job at learning how the system works,” said Mary Renteria, a student services faculty member. “He is constantly working on different projects for the school.”
One of these projects that he has aided in creating is the Career Closet. It is a new service at RCC where the community can donate their old professional attire and casual wear so that students who are in need of attire for interviews or presentations can come and receive clothes free of charge.
“What we found was that there was a great need for students that were either transitioning into a career or having a life event… but the cost of these things may not be in everyone’s means,” Dean Cruz-Soto said. “So the Career Closet offers an opportunity for folks to feel and look their best while they are pursuing milestones in their lives.”
The new dean also expressed that he would like to begin exploring projects that provide support to RCC’s student veterans, homeless students and formerly incarcerated students.
“One of the things I’d like to see is really expanding the awareness of our veterans on our campus,” Cruz-Soto said, “and how do we honor them and support them more.”
Collaboration is key when it comes to creating new services for the students here at RCC. Cruz-Soto hopes to create opportunities where students can speak with him about the campus and their needs.
“I want to be a part of student engagement inside and outside of the classroom,” Cruz-Soto said. “I want to know when students are doing extremely well and when they are not doing well.”
Cruz-Soto said he understands that many students go through struggles, both personal or academic, and how he aims to help those students who are in need.
His reason for coming to RCC was because he felt that he could relate best with the lives of the students here at the campus.
This is because Cruz-Soto grew up in New Jersey with a family of 11.
“My great grandmother took care of everybody,” said Cruz-Soto, “and she did it with a $10,000 income and some food stamps.”
It was through this hardship that Cruz-Soto pursued entering higher education.
Cruz-Soto has an Ed.D in Executive Leadership in Higher Education Management and a Masters Degree in Higher Education Administration from Rowan University. He was also the dean of Campus Life, the dean of Multicultural Affairs, and the director of ALANA Cultural Center for Colgate University before moving to California to fill the position of Cal Poly Pomona’s Associate Vice President and Dean of Students for the Division of Student Affairs in 2017.
He expressed that his experience growing up can be vital to changing RCC and helping create new services to further enhance and improve the learning conditions for many of the students here.
“As I was picking a school, the things that I was looking for was: can I really help the students here,” Cruz-Soto said. “But then also do the students reflect my values of who I was coming up.”
He is no stranger to impacting the lives of students within college campuses. At Colgate University he received multiple Torch Medals, an award given by alumni to faculty members who really impacted them at their time at Colgate University.
When asked about what message he wants to convey to the students at RCC, he said to never give up.
“If you have drive, you can escape almost any situation,” Cruz-Soto said, “If somebody extends a hand to help, take advantage of that opportunity.”