Knowledge is Power: Peter Jordan on the Value of Education

During a February-long celebration of Black History Month, NYU-Poly highlights the legacy of its alumni and the continued impact of the African-American community on the Institute. 

Just last month, Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) alumnus Peter Jordan took the reins as president at Tarrant County College’s South Campus in Fort Worth, Texas. Tarrant County College, founded in 1965, has an enrollment of nearly 50,000 students pursuing associate and technical degrees with the goal of providing affordable and open access to quality education. Made up of five campuses, the college is the seventh largest among Texas’s many higher education institutions.

Jordan, MS in Operations Management '95, has long held a commitment to community-college education. "Community colleges are an important gateway to higher education for many students," he says. "Many of them are immigrants like myself, or they are individuals for whom the traditional path to higher education may not work. Education is not only about feeding the mind; it's also about saving lives."

This appointment is the Barbadian native's latest achievement in an impressive list of accomplishments — he was the first African-American director of admissions at an independent private university in New York State and the first African-American president of the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling — recalls the observations of Hans Mark, former member of the board of trustees at NYU-Poly, who, ruminating over the school's diverse student body, remarked in 2005, "Our function was to create an elite among new immigrants, and by and large, we succeeded."

Given Jordan's dissertation research topic while he was at NYU-Poly — the success of black male students at urban community colleges — Mark's comment likely resonates with him. "As an immigrant kid transplanted from a small island in the eastern Caribbean to New York City, I had the opportunity, thanks to Pell grants and many scholarships, to attend some very fine schools," Jordan said recently. "Education has changed the trajectory of my life."

Education's saving graces continue to drive Jordan, who has maintained a long career as a university administrator: dean of student enrollment at New York Institute of Technology in the late 1990s and interim vice chancellor for student affairs at the City University of New York from 2009 to 2011, among other roles. He also enjoyed a stint as NYU-Poly's dean of university admissions from 1989 to 1996, an experience he remembers fondly. Recalling his supervisors — David Chang, then president of the Institute, and Ellen Hartigan, former vice president of student affairs there and his thesis advisor Barry Blecherman— Jordan says they were "really supportive. They gave me the permission to try things and put in place new strategies for transfer and international student recruitment and to start the Youth in Engineering and Science (YES) program."  

That kind of collegial support pays dividends in the workplace, believes Jordan, who reminds those who would aspire to his success that "being a professional is more than just showing up to your job five days a week."

"It's about being a member of the profession that you’re part of,” he says, “and collaborating with others to make sure that you develop the knowledge base for moving the profession forward.”