Galvin Guerrero ’96 on social justice, education, and coming home.

As a high school senior, Galvin Guerrero ’96 couldn’t wait to escape the stifling familiarity of Saipan—an island within the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, roughly 450 miles north of Guam—for the relative obscurity of college. But come move-in day at Puget Sound, Guerrero found himself fighting back tears as he watched his mother disappear into a cab outside Anderson/Langdon Hall.

Galvin Guerrero ’96

He threw himself into organizing a campus Halloween rave, which caught the attention of Serni Solidarios, student programs director. Solidarios approached Guerrero about helping coordinate events on campus, including the first annual Mistletoast, and over the next four years Guerrero added KUPS DJ, sound man for the theatre department, a handful of leading roles in stage productions, and student trustee to his list of extracurriculars.

He also published (anonymously at the time) an underground newspaper, The Usual Suspects, which highlighted social issues, such as a lack of diversity within the student body and the imbalance between male and female faculty. “My awareness of social justice was born at Puget Sound,” Guerrero says. “I started looking at the bigger picture and understanding that there are systemic forces at play that need to be addressed.”

By graduation, he had an offer from a sociology prof to serve as a research assistant for a book about the Seattle School District’s desegregation efforts. But Guerrero’s mother begged him to come home, and he agreed to spend a year as an English teacher at his old high school to get a feel for the education landscape in preparation for the book project.

To Guerrero’s surprise, he fell back in love with the island. In the three decades since then, he’s held a variety of education and policy roles, including high school speech and debate coach, principal, member of the Board of Education for the Northern Marianas Islands, and education advisor to the governor. (He’s especially proud of the drama program he established at Mount Carmel High School, his alma mater, now with more than 50 productions to its name.) Along the way he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate.

In 2021 he was named president of Northern Marianas College, a public institution with an enrollment of 1,300 students. In that role, he’s focused on improving the quality of instruction at the college, cultivating financial support for scholarships, and launching a film school. In December 2023, NMC was named by Cengage Asia as one of the Top 10 Digital-Ready Institutions in Asia. Guerrero also helped lead the rebuilding effort after 90% of the campus was devastated by Typhoon Yutu in 2018.

Last October, he visited the Puget Sound campus and was able to spend time with Solidarios. Says Guerrero: “He was truly my Yoda during those formative years.”