Alumni Q&A: Gerald Olvera '18

Gerald Olvera ’18 goes from small town American kid, to dedicated Navy Helicopter Crewman,
to Sgro Fellow at A&E Network

What made you join the Navy, and how did you serve during your nearly 15-year career?

I was born and raised in a small town in Indiana called Rome City. I was always an adventurous, outdoorsy kid with an affection for both water and flight, so after high school, I enlisted in the Navy and became an aircraft mechanic. I first worked on hydraulic and pneumatic systems, and later became a helicopter crewman, so, instead of just working on the aircraft, I started flying in them.  I served eleven years on active duty, three years as a reservist, and one year with the State Department. Throughout the eleven years, I circumnavigated the globe three times, went to forty-four countries, and have been on every continent. Before I entered the reserves, I deployed ten times, each for different durations. I really enjoyed my experience.

What did you learn while serving in the Navy?

The military taught me how to learn, meaning how to ingest information quickly, segment it, store it, process it, and then recall it whenever needed. The Navy also gave me the confidence to talk to people, and I think public speaking skills are really important today. After I left active duty, I also wanted to help younger sailors with their careers, so that was great, because it taught me that yes, my career is important, but the future generation is more important than me right now. I still get calls today for advice.

What made you decide to enroll at Pace?

In 2012, I anticipated a downsize in the military, so I planned to become a contractor with the Navy and work as a civilian. The transition to get out of active duty back to civilian life is tough. I visited my brother in Westchester, and he convinced me to stay in New York, for the opportunities he felt were abundant there.  I had nothing, but moved and got a couple of part-time jobs right away. College was on my radar, but I did not know where to go. At a social gathering, I met a Pace alumna, and upon learning that I was a vet, she advised me to check out Pace and its beautiful Pleasantville campus, just ten minutes from where I lived.  She told me it had a great student veteran program and connected me with Rob Rahni. He saw me right away, and explained from start to finish, how my GI Bill could support me.

What made you choose Liberal Studies as a major and what was your experience as a student like?

I wanted flexibility in my courses, so I selected Liberal Studies as a major. I picked media as a concentration, and signed up for a film editing class, and other communications classes, such as writing for print media and writing for digital media. I fell in love with editing the most. I had many questions, and would often pull aside Professor LaRosa, Media, Communications and Visual Arts (MVCA). She actually took time out of her day to get a hold of people who would help me edit. That was really welcoming, and I became fascinated with it. LaRosa saw my interest and encouraged me to sign up for her Digital Editing II class, a challenge she thought I could handle.

How did you learn about the Sgro Fellowship for veterans in media?

I went to Career Services, and they encouraged me to attend an upcoming Job Fair at the Goldstein Fitness Center. The first booth I saw when I walked in was for the A&E Network. The HR rep told me that I was a perfect candidate for the Sgro Fellowship, but that somebody was already in the program, so she asked if she could hold onto my resume if I was interested.  I said, "Absolutely." Months later, I was living in Brooklyn and working as a production assistant when I got the call from A&E. LaRosa was excited for me, and when I told her that I really wanted the job, she said, “We want you to get it, too."

What is the program about and what is your role?

It’s an 18-month rotational program that covers all of global and technical operations, from post-production to engineering, and includes international sales, advertising, marketing, and some IT and cyber security. I’ve also been involved in production and shot a couple of Live PD episodes. Currently, I’m working as a business analyst and quality assurance representative, with a focus on Cloud-based media supply chain management.

How are you connected to MCVA as an alumnus and what advice would you give to current students?

I've literally been popping onto the Pleasantville campus on my way home from Stamford, CT and talking to students, who have been like, "Hey, I know you."  I’m also helping two current students with their films, by serving in roles as a veteran who has PTSD and a homeless man who helps a troubled teen find his way back home. We start filming Post-Traumatic on March 30, 2019. This will be an eye-opener for anyone who doesn’t understand the complexities faced by many veterans who suffer from this disorder. The Lighthouse will be filmed in mid-April.

As far as advice, I’d say that you will never understand true potential until you exceed your limitations -- I'm a firm believer in this, because I never thought I was going to be in the position I'm in right now. Don’t waste your time worrying about where you started, visualize where you want to finish. Then, focus on how to get there. Also, don’t forget there is always help, and don’t be afraid to ask. I accepted a lot of help along the way, and I turned around and gave that help back. My goal is to pay it forward by continuing to give that help back.