Claudia M. Orozco has been recognized with the 2012 staff Excellence in Customer Service Award for her outstanding service to students and her do-what-it-takes attitude as administrative assistant for the Master of Social Work Program at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
She was nominated for the award by MSW faculty members who have worked with her as well as her supervisor, associate professor and MSW director and chair Mekada Graham-Gallegan.
“Claudia goes above and beyond her regular work duties and exemplifies the kind of service that we like to be known for here at CSUDH. She interfaces with a variety of issues on a daily basis including admissions status, permission numbers, registration issues, petition information, and basic program information. She is professional and always courteous when called upon by students,” Graham-Gallegan explained.
Orozco gives students individualized attention by going over the program’s requirements with them as well as evaluating their application, and informing them whether they have been admitted, and if not, why and what their next step would be.
“I like that I get to talk to students and work with faculty, learning about research and helping with the accreditation process. It’s not just secretarial for me,” she said.
Her contributions in so many areas are valued in the busy office.
“I can sincerely say that I could not ask for a better administrative assistant and her body of work over the past four years has been exceptional to say the least. Her strong work ethic and intelligence has been crucial to the functioning of the department and a pleasure to be around,” Graham-Gallegan went on to say.
Orozco attributes her strong work ethic to the example set by her father, who worked for many years as an immigrant field worker to provide for his wife and their six children, who all shared a small one-bedroom apartment in Wilmington.
“He’s always taught us to work hard and for what we want with dignity and honesty,” she said.
Orozco has not only worked hard as a staff member at CSU Dominguez Hills, but as a student. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2011 and is now pursuing a master’s in sociology.
“I decided to study sociology because I wanted to learn more about people,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot about other cultures. My mind has opened so much ever since studying sociology and I really enjoy it.”
At first, however, her parents—unfamiliar with higher education—weren’t supportive of her educational pursuits. They thought after she graduated from Cabrillo High School she should start working and become independent.
“Growing up, I really never thought about going to college because we weren’t pushed to go to college,” she conceded.
But her eldest sister Alma Melena, who is now an alumna (Class of ’05, B.A., business administration; ’12, M.A., counseling), encouraged her to go to college. Orozco took her sister’s advice and enrolled at Los Angeles Harbor College.
“I just wanted to get a vocational two-year degree and then get a job and stay there,” she said. “Honestly, my sister Alma changed the future for me.”
Melena again persuaded Orozco to continue her education and transfer to CSU Dominguez Hills. However, it wasn’t just Melena who offered motivation. Orozco joined her other sister Christina Prado, who is older by one year, and they went through the bachelor’s program in sociology together, and are now pursing their master’s together.
The three sisters are colleagues at CSU Dominguez Hills as well. Melena works as an adviser for the School of Health and Human Services’ Student Services Center, and Prado works as an administrative support coordinator for the School of Nursing.
Holding degrees in higher education—and good jobs—has benefited all three sisters.
“Once my parents saw that education was actually paying back, they were like, ‘Oh, you were right.’ And now they’re proud of us,” Orozco said. “Now they’re trying pushing my two younger brothers, one who is currently attending college and the other, a senior in high school.”
Orozco, 26, who lives in Torrance with her husband, Sigifredo Garcia, and their two-year-old son Nathan, hopes to someday conduct research for a non-profit organization that works with Hispanic immigrant families, because she shares that experience—she became a citizen when she was 14 years old, along with her parents and two of her five siblings who were born in Mexico.
“Because of Dominguez Hills I’m going to eventually reach my goal.”
In the meantime, she is achieving goals in her current position at CSU Dominguez Hills and is enjoying the recognition she has received for that.
“When I read the [award nomination] letter they wrote I was like ‘Wow, they really think that about me.’ It just goes back to everything my parents taught me. It’s nice to see that it’s reflected in me, that I do the best that I can in everything that I do,” Orozco said. “I love working where I work.”