Aida Alvarez: Broadening Students' Opinions

Aida Alvarez '71 has already been a journalist, an entrepreneur and a politico. Now she is seeking yet another job, a seat on the Board of Overseers.

Alvarez, who was an English concentrator and a resident of Quincy House, is the administrator of the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) which gives Americans the technical and financial assistance they need to start businesses. Hers is the top leadership position of this government agency.

Her frequent career shifts are impetus behind her determination to make preparing undergraduates for the future her platform.

She notes that many students, like herself, will have several careers over their lifetime.

"[Graduates] need to be prepared for the real world and risk taking," Alvarez says. "Sometimes when they get out of the college they are not ready for the real world."

Alvarez says her experience at Harvard had a great influence--mostly positive--on her career path. She was a student during the political turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s.

"I was there at a very exciting time," says Alvarez. "It was a very intense time to be a student. In a way politics was very distracting."

Despite the distraction of the times, Alvarez says she got an incredible education while at Harvard which has been of great use to her in the years since graduation.

"I think Harvard opened many many doors to me," Alvarez says.

Since graduation, Alvarez has been a devoted member of the Harvard club.

"I would like to given something back to Harvard," Alvarez says. "I think I have some things to add."

Alvarez's current job is quite a bit different from the profession she started in upon leaving college. After graduation, Alvarez became a reporter for the New York Post, working there for four years. She then moved into television journalism in New York City for seven years, a stint which won her an Associated Press award and Emmy nomination for reporting she did on the war in El Salvador.

Alvarez then shifted from reporting to money, entering the world of corporate finance for ten years. She worked for both Bear Stearns and First Boston.

This career led her into the public service field. She first entered the Clinton administration in 1993, working to oversee the quasi-government corporations that underwrite mortgages. At the start of Clinton's second term she became the leader of the SBA.

Alvarez was born in Puerto Rico, although she moved to Brooklyn, New York before she was a year old and grew up there. She was the first in her immediate family to attend college, but had two sisters and a brother who followed her to Harvard. Before attending Harvard, Alvarez was in all-female Catholic schools.

After the Clinton administration hands over the reigns to its successor early next year, Alvarez says she is unsure what her future will hold.