Aguilar leaves intercultural office, takes a step toward political office dreams

Walking into Greg Aguilar’s office is similar to walking into the parlor of a proud parent. Pictures of students line the shelves and decorations from the most recent event, Día De Los Muertos, are scattered around. There are students mingling, talking, and the door to his office is propped wide open. Soon, that office will be missing something essential: Aguilar.
Aguilar, a Quad Cities native, has always gravitated to politics. Growing up, people often commented on him becoming the president of the United States. In 2012, Aguilar took a step towards that goal. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, which inspired him to take a position as the regional manager for the Office of Regional Economic Development this fall. Aguilar left Augustana College on Nov. 5.
“For some reason I always believed that I could be a great leader,” said Aguilar. “I may not make it to the White House, but I continuously find opportunities that are guiding me toward politics. Will I become the president? I don’t know, but I will certainly do everything that I can to help get there. I believe in dreaming big, and that’s as big as it gets for me.”
While Aguilar’s dream of a congressional seat did not come to fruition, running for the 17th District seat against Cheri Bustos and Bobby Schilling proved to be the catalyst for Aguilar to become more involved in politics and have a greater interest in helping his community.
“Although I lost, I learned that if you want to see change in your community and country, you must get involved, and that’s exactly what I have done,” said Aguilar.
Aguilar often had his door open and was a mentor to many students, especially those who were involved in Latinos Unidos, Multicultural Programming Board and the Office of Intercultural Student Life (ICSL). Students felt comfortable enough to discuss anything with Aguilar, including relationships, family, hardships and dreams.
“Greg truly was one of the main reasons that convinced me to come to Augie while I was being recruited,” said sophomore Kyle Johnson. “He was just a warmhearted person that anybody can get along with and pick up any conversation with.”
“Greg has been a great mentor to me, and has taught me many great qualities that make me who I am today,” agreed junior Octavio Cordero, who serves on both the executive board for the Multicultural Programming Board (MPB) and Latinos Unidos. “He pushes students past their own expectations to become leaders in the classroom and in the community. He will be missed but not forgotten.”
Aguilar hopes for the diversity program to continue to expand. Aguilar’s leadership helped the ICSL grow throughout the four years he served as director. There has been a consistent increase in first-year multicultural students in the four years Aguilar has been director, especially this past year. While many of the first-year students have not had many chances to speak with Aguilar, those few who have consider their brief interactions enlightening.
“I met him once in a class to talk about the diversity of the United States of America, and in that one class, his way of speaking and presenting filled the class with warmth and comfort. We even found the students who generally don’t speak up do so,” said first year Tharakie Pahathkumbura. “Ever since then his presence or just his picture on the ICSL door puts a smile across my face. Whenever we meet, even if it was just walking by in a corridor, he would be the first to smile. I am grateful that I had the opportunity, which not all freshman students really get, to know him.”
As diversity grew on campus, Aguilar became a resource for students, not only with job opportunities, internships and event programming, but with personal accomplishments and struggles. One of Aguilar’s fondest memories was the growth of the ICSL, diversity on campus, and, of course, the students.
“They were the reason that I came to the office every day,” said Aguilar. “I will miss talking with them about their lives, their problems, achievements, and goals. I will miss laughing with them, supporting them in their times of need, being a part of their lives and including them in my professional life.”
Just as Aguilar has been a support system for his students, they hope to do the same as he continues forward. While they will miss Aguilar as their director, they want to continue the progress he has inspired.
“His passion for his job and the students that he works with is definitely worth of admiration,” said Latinos Unidos president and MPB executive co-director Michelle Bautista, a junior.  “I’ve had to work closely with him this year and I can easily say that I have learned so many life skills that I hope to improve on and perfect throughout my time here at Augie. We hope to continue with as much drive as he has and make him proud of what we can do.”
While Aguilar takes on his new role, he still plans to visit campus and stay connected with Augustana and the Quad Cities community.
“I want to continue being a resource to the college and will enjoy watching the new direction that the office will take,” said Aguilar. “I am a local that values my personal relationships with the college.”