Student Council’s Amber Rivero ’21 Creates An Inclusive Community for Transfer Students

Student Council’s Amber Rivero ’21 Creates An Inclusive Community for Transfer Students

Student Council’s Amber Rivero ’21 Creates An Inclusive Community for Transfer Students

Amber Rivero ’21 may be new on campus, transferring to John Jay in 2019, but she’s already established herself as a vocal and compassionate advocate for students here at the College. As Transfer Representative on the Student Council, she’s helping to create solutions for the issues that impact transfer students most—such as not being familiar with the college and its culture—and acting as a soundboard for her peers while fostering a more inclusive and welcoming environment on campus. The desire to make sure transfer students feel included in the John Jay community comes from Rivero’s own upbringing. “I was a military brat the first 13 years of my life,” says Rivero. “In that time, I lived in five different states. I also lived in Panama for three years.” Constantly moving around meant that Rivero had to adapt to new environments—and those new environments weren’t always easy navigate. “I went through my fair share of hardships, but those experiences helped shape my vision for justice and advocacy, and they also gave me the ability to be empathetic toward others.”

“I went through my fair share of hardships, but those experiences helped shape my vision for justice and advocacy, and they also gave me the ability to be empathetic toward others.” —Amber Rivero

That empathic quality has led Rivero to take on prominent student leadership roles within the City University of New York (CUNY) community and at John Jay—where she’s working on earning a CUNY BA, double majoring in International Relations and Human Rights. She serves as a student representative on the University Committee for CUNY’s Baccalaureate of Interdisciplinary Studies, a unique program that gives students the chance to help develop the CUNY BA program. “I love being able to represent students in the program across the CUNY system, expressing the needs and experience we have,” says Rivero. At John Jay, beyond working with the Student Council, she’s also the Chair of the Transfer Committee, which helps Student Council meet the needs of transfer students. We sat down with Rivero to learn more about how she’s helping transfer students acclimate to the College, her role with the Student Council, and her hopes for the future.

When you were selecting a college to transfer to, what made you want to come to John Jay?
I chose John Jay for several reasons. The College’s focus on justice, specifically social justice and human rights issues; the incredible climate of student advocacy; and the respect between the administration and students. I remember sitting in on the President’s Town Hall and I was amazed by the fact that students were invited to attend and participate. They have a working relationship with the faculty and members of the College’s leadership team. That mutual respect was so important to me. I also chose John Jay because I knew it was a safe space for students to explore their identities and find acceptance in a community that is affirming and inclusive.

“There are so many amazing students at John Jay who are working to bring positive change to the campus and their own home communities.” —Amber Rivero

How has your time at John Jay been?
In one word, revolutionary. I love the diversity of the student body. There are so many amazing students at John Jay who are working to bring positive change to the campus and their own home communities. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve seen myself grow academically, as a person, and as a student leader. I am constantly challenged to grow and learn here, and it’s a safe space for that development.

Amber Rivero
Rivero sitting on the Jay Walk

What inspired you to join Student Council?
At my previous college, I had the honor of cofounding and serving as president of a student organization that was created to fill the gap in resources for students interested in law school. This experience opened me up to student advocacy and showed me how powerful we are as students who are informed and passionate about creating change—especially in policy so that it reflects a student-centric perspective. I joined Student Council at John Jay to be a part of that change for all the students, but especially for transfer students, who make up a large percentage of the student population.

As Transfer Representative on Student Council, what are your duties?
As Transfer Representative, I’m a direct contact for transfer students to express their feedback and ask for assistance with any issues they may experience during their transfer journey. Transfer representatives on Student Council are also tasked with looking at every program, every department, and every policy that exists or is being voted on college-wide and evaluating if the language, planning, and methods of outreach are inclusive and welcoming for transfer students.

Are there any specific improvements transfer students want to see?
Many of the complaints we get from transfer students are about not being eligible for cohort programs, as well as the lack of specialized programs that support and advise transfer students throughout their journey at John Jay. Transfer students come into the College at every class standing, from private and public institutions, and they all need help navigating the systems in place at John Jay and at CUNY. In Fall 2019, Student Council implemented a transfer student survey where we got feedback about varying issues impacting transfer students. With the survey results we collected, and in person feedback, we are constantly reporting to the Committee on Student Interests and other college-wide committees that can analyze these issues and obstacles, and collaborate on creating transfer-centric reform. The goal is to create a smooth experience for transfer students and ensure they feel informed and supported at every step of their journey. And, we’re seeing some of those changes already. For instance, we celebrated the first on-campus event for National Transfer Student Week this past fall semester.

“Transfer students come into the College at every class standing, from private and public institutions, and they all need help navigating the systems in place.” —Amber Rivero

What has been the best experience you’ve had being part of Student Council so far?

It’s definitely the community aspect—how we’re building a student community both inside and outside the Student Council office. The council team is very affirming, encouraging, and inclusive. One of the biggest misconceptions about Student Council is that we are unapproachable. That is so far from the truth. We welcome all students to come to the lounge and computer space at the Student Council office because it is a safe space for everyone. We love to hear feedback from students; in fact, we encourage it.

What do you hope to do after graduating John Jay? And how will your experience with Student Council help with your career goals?

I hope to apply to a Ph.D. program focused on international human rights or public policy. And, while I’m completing that Ph.D. program, I’d love to be an adjunct professor working in the CUNY system—it would be an honor for me to give back to the students and the CUNY college community. I would also like to be a consultant for city or state agencies where I can inform and help shape legislative reform in the areas of gender-based violence, women’s rights, and human rights. My experience as a leader and advocate in Student Council has helped prepare me to reach my goals because I’m learning the system of governance and how bureaucracy works. With that knowledge of policy analysis and resolution, I feel I will be well prepared for my future career.

Finish this sentence for me: Without John Jay…
Without John Jay I would not be enjoying my experience as a college student. At John Jay I found a loving and safe space to grow and build a strong network and community.