Debi Gaitan is the interim president of Northwest Vista College (NVC), effective Oct. 3, 2022. She has served NVC in numerous leadership roles for more than 20 years. She is an advocate for community colleges and has made it her life work to promote higher education.
During Ms. Gaitan’s years at NVC, the college’s enrollment surged from 200 students to over 17,000. She helped develop the college's mission, vision, values, and touchstones that have fostered NVC’s spirit of collaboration and joy.
In her role as the VPSS, Ms. Gaitan has led NVC through numerous initiatives that have earned the college state and national accolades, including the Alamo-wide Malcom Baldrige Quality Award and AlamoADVISE, a Certified Advisor and Enrollment Coach model that has contributed to the tripling of NVC’s graduation rates. Ms. Gaitan was instrumental in the creation of Vista Central, NVC’s one-stop center for new students as well as the Student Advocacy and Resource Center that provides support to students who have food and housing insecurities. As a co-developer of the Executive Faculty Council, Ms. Gaitan helped to create a framework for faculty leaders to embrace shared governance and decision-making authority.
Ms. Gaitan co-led the Pathways Leadership Council responsible for spearheading the Guided Pathways strategies for the five colleges in the Alamo Colleges District. She also was the co-lead and now champions the work of NVC’s Strategic Enrollment Planning team to increase enrollment, retention, persistence, degree completion, and transition to a university or workforce. She is also an AlamoPROMISE leader who works to ensure equitable access to higher education by helping to eliminate financial barriers for students. She co-led NVC’s Access, Advocacy, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (AAIDE) team, which led to The Collaborative, NVC’s strategic focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice.
Prior to NVC, Ms. Gaitan worked for Communities in Schools and San Antonio Positive Solutions, where she helped youth overcome barriers by earning their GEDs and enrolling in college. She also worked at Our Lady of the Lake University where she served as a recruiter, advisor, and associate director.
Ms. Gaitan attended St. Philip's College, Texas Tech University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Our Lady of the Lake University. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's degree in human sciences. She was an All American First Team athlete and earned many college awards. Within Alamo Colleges, she has earned recognitions for Excellence in Teaching and Trusted Leader Awards.
In her spare time, Ms. Gaitan cheers on the San Antonio Spurs with her husband of 35 years and their three children, who all have degrees from Northwest Vista College.
Dr. Daniel Powell is currently the Vice President of Academic Success at Northwest Vista College. He was previously the Dean of Arts & Humanities at Laramie County Community College, where he supervised academic departments in English, Education, World Languages, Mass Media/Multimedia, Communication, Music, Art, Theater, Philosophy, and Humanities and other operational areas within the School of Arts & Humanities, including curriculum development and assessment; advancing competency-based learning; improving program marketing, recruitment, and retention; and developing and implementing strategic action plans. In addition to overseeing the development, administration, and accountability of a large operational budget, Dr. Powell served on many committees to develop and advance policy, procedures, and practices across the college. He was a key chair of the AACC Pathway 2.0 initiatives that were transformative for the college. Dr. Powell has helped to recently complete a multi-year initiative to raise $14 million from individual giving, state, and local appropriations for a fine and performing arts renovation and expansion project.
Before coming to NVC, and his work at LCCC, Dr. Powell served for 2 years as the Music Department Chair at the Patel Conservatory of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. He was the administrative leader of a large multi-faceted music department that includes Children’s Music, Suzuki, Youth Orchestra, Rock School, Vocal Arts, Guitar, Jazz, and Private Lesson programs. Dr. Powell has also served as Theater Department Chair where he supervised 4 main productions in the Fall/Spring, 5 summer productions, and a comprehensive theater certificate program. He managed a staff of over 50 instructors and administrators and managed a large departmental budget.
Prior to this appointment, Dr. Powell was the Associate Dean of Fine and Performing Arts at Chipola College and the executive director of the Chipola Regional Arts Association (CRAA). Under his leadership and with the support of community leaders, CRAA supports the arts in the Chipola District by funding programs for children, contributing to the Artist Series and art exhibitions, providing granting opportunities for area music, art, and theatre teachers, promoting an endowment for long-term growth, and offering art scholarships to Chipola students. As the Associate Dean, Dr. Powell was the academic administrator for music, art and theater programs; served as artistic director of the Artist Series; supervised the Center for the Arts, Cultural Center and Fine Arts facilities; and directed the marketing and development/fundraising programs within the department. During his tenure, Dr. Powell opened a 45,000 square feet performing arts center that included a 655 seat state of the art proscenium theater and a 150 seat experimental theater. Prior to this administrative appointment, Dr. Powell was a tenured music professor at Chipola where he taught music theory, music literature, applied lessons and jazz band.
Having received a Bachelor of Music degree in music education from West Texas A&M University, Dr. Powell began his teaching career in the Texas public schools. He then received a Master of Music degree from Arizona State University, where he served as a teaching assistant. Dr. Powell received the Doctor of Music degree from Florida State University (FSU). During his tenure at FSU, he was a teaching assistant and was the first to receive a Certificate in Arts Administration with primary coursework in Marketing, Development, and Operational Management. Dr. Powell also completed a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Troy University that has earned a distinguished AACSB accreditation that less than 5% of business schools earn worldwide.
Ms. Erin Sherman is the Vice President for College Services for Northwest Vista College. She provides strategic leadership and alignment in the areas of budget and financial services, information technology, institutional research, strategic planning and institutional effectiveness, facilities development and support, and other services.
Ms. Sherman served as Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Research Compliance and Export Control Officer prior to joining NVC. She also brings private sector experience as an auditor for KPMG, LLP, and an accountant in the petroleum industry.
Ms. Sherman earned a B.B.A in accounting and a Master of Accountancy from Texas A & M University--Corpus Christi. She is also a graduate of Palo Alto College with an Associate’s Degree in Agribusiness.
Ms. Sherman is actively involved with Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL) and is currently a member of the National Awards Program Committee. She has served the organization in several capacities over her fourteen year membership, is a member of the Texas Phi Beta Lambda State Committee, a lifetime Professional Division member, and is a past National President of Phi Beta Lambda.
Ms. Sherman enjoys spending time with her husband, Scott, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Business faculty member. San Antonio is Ms. Sherman’s hometown, and she is thrilled to once again be living close to family.
Effective Oct. 16, 2022, Ms. Jennifer Comedy-Holmes will serve as the Interim Vice President for Student Success. She will also retain her current duties as Dean for Student Success.
As the Interim Vice President, Ms. Comedy-Holmes will lead all Student Success teams and will serve on the college's Executive Team.
Jennifer began her career in higher education as an adjunct faculty member in Speech Communication at Northwest Vista College in August 2002. During her time at NVC, she has served as discipline coordinator for Speech, academic chair for Social Sciences, and currently, as the Dean for Student Success.
As the Dean for Student Success, Jennifer has led the Veteran Affairs, ACCESS/Services to Students with Disabilities, Student Life and Student Development teams. In addition, she has worked with faculty and staff on issues pertaining to student discipline and code of conduct.
Jennifer received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Development from Texas A&M University and a Master of Arts degree in Speech Communication from West Texas A&M.
She believes strongly in "Creating Opportunities for Success" and serves as an advocate for our college and our numerous stakeholder groups.
Dr. Yolanda Reyes Guevara has spent the last 17 years preparing for this opportunity. She began her career in higher education at Palo Alto College as a recruiter/advisor and has served in various capacities throughout her career in higher education including director of Student Life at St. Philip’s and adjunct faculty member for both NVC and San Antonio College. Yolo has served at NVC as the director of Enrollment Services for 3 ½ years and is honored to serve as the interim dean of Student Success.
During her time as the director of Enrollment, Yolo leads initiatives in Admissions, Records & Residency/Degree Audit teams, as well as Assessment & Testing. She also serves as the college’s registrar and oversees the college’s state reporting functions. Her role has afforded her the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and staff on various committees and projects.
Yolo received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Boston University, a Masters of Public Administration from UTSA and a Ph.D. from Texas State University in Adult, Professional and Community education. She is excited to serve in this capacity and looks forward to continuing her work for students at NVC.
Ms. Robin Lund has been with Northwest Vista College since 2008, hired as NVC’s first Coordinator for Recruitment, then served as the Director of Enrollment for seven years before becoming Dean for Student Success in 2018. Robin has dedicated her career to serving students in various capacities for the past 17+ years and has a passion for providing access to higher education for the community.
Prior to coming to Northwest Vista, Ms. Lund worked for The University of Northern Iowa where she coordinated the Admissions communication and marketing strategies, served as an Admissions Counselor, and provided Immigration Advising for international students. Additionally, she has worked at The University of Texas at San Antonio as an Academic Advisor.
Ms. Lund believes in putting students in the center of what we do and has a passion for ensuring access to higher education. The culture and mission of NVC embodies the same values; enabling her to experience her favorite NVC Touchstone, Joy, on a daily basis.
Ms. Lund received a master’s degree in Postsecondary Education: Student Affairs and a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa.
In her free time, Ms. Lund enjoys spending time with her family and cooking--and eating--great food.
Dr. Russell Frohardt is the Dean for Academic Success at Northwest Vista College. Prior to that, Dr. Frohardt served as Associate Dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience at St.Edward's University in Austin, Texas, where he has held various faculty and administrative positions since joining the community in 2003.
Prior to his term as interim Dean of BSS, he was an American Council on Education Fellow, hosted by Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he learned about administrative, curricular, and co-curricular practices across the country. Dr. Frohardt received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, his M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Vermont, and he completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College before coming to Texas.
His research interests span the neurobiology of learning and memory, spatial navigation, sexual behavior, and models of relapse and addiction. In his free time, Russ enjoys playing basketball and roller derby, live music, and spending time with friends and his wife, Dr. Fay Guarraci, and son, Cole.
Mr. Patrick Fontenot believes that computer literacy is important to each and every student, regardless of what career they choose. In fact, he says, everyone benefits from understanding and appreciating this rapidly changing field. “Technology is here to stay and it touches our lives daily in one way or another,” he says.
As the Dean for Academic Success, Mr. Fontenot leads a wide range of programs and services to students, businesses and community members. He provides strategic direction to his team of directors, coordinators, faculty and staff to ensure that the programs offered incorporate the latest technology and training. Pat and his team work closely with local employers, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to ensure that all of the technical programs at Northwest Vista College prepare graduates for high demand jobs and lead to employment opportunities in fields such as Information Security, Nanotechnology, Digital Media, 3D Animation, Advanced Water Treatment, Clinical Research and many others. Under Pat’s direction, the nearly 20 degree programs have continually improved student graduation and job placement rates.
Many local employers such as USAA and the Southwest Research Institute have additionally benefited from customized training for their employees in leadership, teambuilding, strategic planning and customer relations that Mr. Fontenot’s team provides as part of the Business Solutions program.
Mr. Fontenot believes that everyone deserves a satisfying life and that education is the way to achieve that. He feels that his current position has been the most satisfying because it impacts many lives and strengthens college partnerships with community organizations. In collaboration with other colleagues, Pat has been instrumental in working with the military to provide training for those in the service. He himself served in the United States Air Force for 20 years.
Having grown up speaking French in Southwest Louisiana, Mr. Fontenot understands the importance of language skills in the workforce and every day communication. He celebrates the success of students in the ESL (English as a Second Language) program, offered as part of continuing education. Other community and personal leisure programs that Pat manages include kids programs, enrichment for seniors, healthcare fields, information technology, cooking and robotics education and training for elementary, middle and high school students.
Mr. Fontenot has been with Northwest Vista College for 12 years. He began as an instructor and has achieved increased leadership opportunities that included working as a program developer, program coordinator and academic leader for all Business and Computer disciplines. He also served as the Director of Information Technology and Communications for the college. Pat holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Computer Information Systems from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Master of Arts Degree in Computer Resource Management from Webster University.
In his 12 years of service to Northwest Vista College, Mr. Fontenot is known for his simple and direct style that cuts through the chase. His advice to students is always the same: “Choose a career that will make you happy and that you will enjoy every day.”
Northwest Vista College welcomes Dr. Robert Ayala, a new dean for Academic Success. Since 2012, he served as the division chair of Arts and Sciences at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde, Texas.
Dr. Ayala has over 15 years of experience in leadership, strategic planning, curriculum design, program design, and vision setting in both academic and student affairs divisions. Throughout his career at SWTJC, he secured over $14 million in federal grants funding various research and institutional initiatives.
Dr. Ayala has spent considerable time in the Alamo City as an undergraduate and research assistant. Dr. Ayala received his bachelor's and doctoral degrees from the University of Texas at San Antonio and his master's degree from Angelo State University. A former Biology professor, Dr. Ayala has given many presentations on STEM-related topics at conferences and has been the lead project director overseeing several major STEM grants.
Dr. Ayala is married to Kathryn, a psychology instructor at SWTJC. Together, they have four children, ranging in age from 5 to 22.
As a first-generation American and first-generation college student, Dr. Ayala says, “I love the world-leading innovation that our higher education system cultivates, as well as the social mobility and capital it provides. Most importantly, I am appreciative of the opportunities community colleges provide to almost half of the college student population. I am sincerely grateful for the kindness and cariño that I have received and am blessed to now be part the NVC family. I am honored and looking forward to serving the students and community of San Antonio.”