Juan Pacheco Lozano, from Bogota, Colombia, moved to the U.S. seven months ago. He has previously worked as the administrative assistant for the not-for-profit organization Justapaz (an agency of the Columbian Mennonite Church) in Bogota and served with Mennonite Central Committee at the United Nations in New York City.He now finds himself at Goshen College as the administrative assistant for student life.
After marrying Goshen alumni Lizzy Diaz, class of ’13, in August 2017, Pacheco came to Goshen in 2015 to view the campus where his wife had earned her undergraduate. During his visit he was introduced to Gilberto Perez briefly in the stairwell of the administration building, where Perez suggested going out for coffee at some point.
The following month the pair followed through with their plans and met.
“My first impression of him was intelligent, quick to grasp hard issues and also very concerned and detail-oriented,” Perez said.
Back then, Pacheco wasn’t interested in or even considering working at Goshen College. The meeting with Perez was purely social.
However, after learning more about Pacheco’s background, Perez explained how the thought of Pacheco working at Goshen crossed his mind.
“He, at that time, was working for a not-for-profit which was addressing issues of justice and peace… We’re a college working on justice and peace, those are some of our core values,” Perez said. “At that time I thought ‘wow, I wonder at some point we might have a position for him at Goshen College,’ but I didn’t know what.”
Perez never envisioned Pacheco working with him at student life. From his background and experience he thought he would be a good fit for the peace, justice and conflict studies department.
“I didn’t know he was going to apply.” Perez said, but after the interview process for the role in student life, Perez thought: “Wow, that seems like a great candidate.”
Pacheco explained that when looking for work, he started to look at opportunities with Mennonite agencies out of instinct and saw the student life administrative assistant opening at GC.
“I applied and fortunately got this role,” he said. “I’ve have had the pleasure to know some people who have worked or are working for Goshen College and they gave me really good reviews.”
Pacheco reflected on his meeting with Perez two years ago where the work being carried out at GC came up in conversation.
“Knowing the work that [Perez] and student life were doing grabbed my attention in terms of being able to contribute in some way to the work being carried out here,” Pacheco said.
Perez explained that during the interview process, he was impressed with Pacheco’s experience and ability to interact with people from different backgrounds and opposing views, something that a diverse campus like Goshen College would benefit from.
“In his own country he interacted with folks on both sides of the aisle relating to a conflict, so he had to do that kind of work,” Perez said. “When he did some work at the UN as a Mennonite Central Committee worker there, he worked with a number of people from different countries and backgrounds”
Pacheco agreed that communication with people from a variety of backgrounds and different professional levels has been consistent in his career.
He spoke of his being a part of a Colombia working group at the UN that brought together different organizations interested in peace talks and the peace agreement that was happening at the time with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. The FARC are Columbia’s largest rebel group which came together to fight against the inequality in Columbia in 1964.
“I was able to help bring people from some Colombian nonprofits to the UN, to address, share and interact with representatives of different UN missions, various UN bodies and other organizations advocating for a peaceful solution to this armed conflict.” Pacheco said.
In addition to working in student life, Pacheco also serves as an interpreter for the accounting department and is able to communicate well with parents of GC students who speak little English.
“He comes with a strong language.” Perez said. “He’s excellent with making families feel more at home and more comfortable.”
Now that Pacheco is at Goshen, he is excited to learn more about the different services that the college offers as well as aiding students.
“As an immigrant in this country and in the midst of the political and educational challenges that many immigrants are facing here, I’m very interested in helping to provide a safe space for those who are facing these challenges as well as provide them with support and opportunities.” He said.
After getting to know Pacheco and his story, Perez is urging students on campus to do the same.
“Stop by and meet Juan, introduce yourself, invite Juan to lunch” Perez said. “Get to know him, learn about his skill set and work experience.”