Fall semester brings changes in leadership, location for AOP

Geneseo’s Access Opportunity Program has undergone several changes in the past year. The department has been relocated and a longtime director has left. Interim director & coordinator of admissions Gabriel Iturbides is currently running the program. The changes have affected the entire department, including the two smaller programs. The Educational Opportunity Program is a state-sponsored program designed for students coming from lower income households designed to help them with their education. The Transitional Opportunity Program is similar, but is Geneseo-sponsored and encompasses first generation students, students of color, rural students and non-traditional students—students over the age of 24—who may fall just short of the academic standards of Geneseo but still possess impressive talents.

The most recent and significant change to AOP occurred over the summer with the departmental move from Blake C to Sturges Room 120. “The space on campus has been critical. The school really looks at which space works for whom,” Iturbides said. “Blake has been a question for a while. [Geneseo has] been looking at Blake as a place that may be utilized differently or may be destroyed as a way to make room for the library.”

The new space will benefit the approximately 441 students within the department. The students can now use this space to meet with advisors, study and use the materials and tutoring services provided by AOP. “We did not want to be put in a place that wasn’t accessible or seeming to be not part of the campus, but with Sturges we are right at the forefront,” Iturbides said. “We feel appreciated with this location.”

Iturbides also expressed how well he believed the students seem to be responding to the move. “It is such a spacious, inviting office space,” AOP student senior Alexandra Salerno said. “The counselor’s offices are bigger and there are various rooms for tutoring, meetings and studying. It is refreshing for the entire department to be in a new space.”

Former AOP director Calvin Gantt left for job promotional reasons in January, leaving the department in search of a director. Iturbides has applied for the position and hopes to retain his duties managing both EOP and TOP. He also plans to continue recruiting new students.

“I will be in New York City the first full week of October to recruit,” Iturbides said. “We’re going to be in a lot of different high schools and that’s going to be a new adventure … but at the same time, it’s a very different aspect, especially with having a smaller staff right now.”

According to Iturbides, the AOP website will also be changing in the near future. It will be more accessible and also incorporate AOP’s updated logo, which was designed by TOP sophomore Sofia Villalon, who worked with Geneseo campus photographer Keith Walters’ wife, Joanna Walters.

“[The new logo] is a bold statement of academic success,” Iturbides said. “We want to make sure that AOP is well-known. I think there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the program and we want to get out of that aura.” The logo will be uploaded on the website soon and will be reproduced on print materials both on and off campus.

“I thought about my experience with AOP,” Villalon said. “It’s my foundation … the two pillars of TOP and EOP. come as one and they’re a basis for many students to build a great career and a family. And that’s what it feels like.”

Iturbides expressed his excitement over the changes to the department. “Keeping that integrity with new ideas is probably the biggest challenge,” Iturbides said. “We’re really changing right now and I think that’s a good thing because the world is changing around us as well.”

Allyson Pereyra is a member of  the Access Opportunity Program under the Educational Opportunity Program.