February 28, 2017

Alumni Speaker Series: SES Alumnus Overcomes Odds Through Mentorship

Photo of alumnus Andrew Dorantes giving Commencement address
School of Educational Studies alumnus Andrew Dorantes '14 addresses the crowd at CGU's 2015 Commencement.

Andrew Dorantes’s social studies teacher didn’t remember him as the student who struggled with grades—and a stuttering problem. Mr. Bowley recalled an entrepreneur; the kid who brought candy to school and sold it to classmates.

“He saw and remembered a successful student with a promising future,” the School of Educational Studies (SES) alumnus said.

Mr. Bowley was proven correct. Citing years of mentoring from family, colleagues, and CGU professors, Dorantes (PhD, Education, 2014) surpassed personal, professional, and educational challenges to create his own success story. He kicked off CGU’s inaugural Alumni Speaker Series this month with his February 23 “Overcoming the Odds: Faculty Mentorship and Resiliency” talk at the CGU President’s House.

Dorantes is vice president for administration and finance and treasurer at Harvey Mudd College. But it’s only the current stage in his lifelong journey. Dorantes transitioned from a kid with average grades to first-generation college student; from certified public accountant to college finance executive; from doctoral student with no plans to complete his program to published scholar with a PhD.

But he never would have made it alone.

Seventh-grade teacher Mr. Bowley made classwork competitive and encouraged him. Dorantes went from being a “solid C and D student” to having the sixth-highest GPA in a class of 600.

“He turned on a light in me that cannot be turned off,” Dorantes said.

After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, he secured a job at CapinCrouse, a firm that provides auditing, accounting, tax, and advisory services to colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations. Dorantes became a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner, completed an MBA program at his alma mater, and taught at Azusa Pacific University. After 10 years working at his accounting firm, he became its first Latino partner in the company’s 30-year history.

Though he considered it a long shot because he lacked a background in higher education, Dorantes interviewed for the VP and treasurer position at Harvey Mudd. He got the job.

In 2005, he began a doctoral program at CGU, but had no intention of graduating; he simply wanted to understand “the nuances of faculty and student life.”

The years passed, and Dorantes made little progress on his dissertation. One mentor, now-retired education Professor Daryl G. Smith, confronted him. Dorantes told her he couldn’t see himself as a PhD. Her response: “Well, I will see it for you until you can.”

“That statement was so profound to me,” Dorantes said. “I could not see myself as an academic or finishing my PhD, but right in front of me was a woman who I respected and was highly regarded by many. She believed I could do it.”

Dorantes completed and defended his dissertation, “Financial Crisis Management in Higher Education: How Private Colleges and Universities Responded to the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis (The Great Recession).” He was CGU’s student commencement speaker in 2015.

Other CGU faculty members were pivotal. Dorantes’ credits Education Professor Susan Paik’s research methods class as invaluable. Then-SES Dean and Professor Scott Thomas offered him an adjunct position at CGU teaching higher education economics and finance  and facilitated coaching to help get Dorantes’ research published in the Journal of Education Finance in 2016. Professor Linda Perkins encouraged Dorantes to pursue opportunities to teach at the graduate level as well as to serve on dissertation committees

“He represents the best of a scholar-practitioner as well as a tremendous mentor to our students,” Perkins said.