Like so many children, as a boy Salvador Valdez (Class of ’09, B.S., health science, community health; ’12 M.A., education, counseling) wanted to become a doctor when he grew up.
Intending to go to medical school, he began his freshman year at California State University, Dominguez Hills, majoring in biology. He also volunteered at UCLA-Harbor Medical Center and at a community medical clinic in Bell Gardens.
He was on the right path to achieving his goal, but then he caught a bug. The teaching bug.
“Teaching or education itself kind of always called my name,” Valdez said.
As a university student, he was beginning to seriously evaluate his life’s priorities, and after considerable reflection, came to the realization that working the long hours that are typical of the medical profession didn’t fit his vision of a balanced work-family life.
After analyzing possible degree options, Valdez changed his major, during his sophomore year, to health science with a concentration in community health, because it combined the aspects of medicine and teaching he enjoyed most.
“I looked into health sciences and I learned about the different options: management and health, community health. … I was looking to work more in the health field itself, [as] a health educator. [Community health] was the one that kind of called me more because there was more interaction with people and was hands-on. I’ve always liked that,” Valdez said.
With this new focus, in 2006 Valdez began working on campus as a student assistant in the University Advising Center (UAC).While working in the UAC, he became more and more interested in advising and counseling students. He considered it a form of teaching, he said, and once again reconsidered his goals and the direction his life was taking.
This time his extracurricular work turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
“Being able to assist students, not in the classroom itself, but in how to actually meet the requirements and how to graduate—what are the different paths students can take toward graduation. I guess that education bug bit me again,” he said.
So, after earning his B.A. in health science with a concentration in community health in 2009, Valdez went on to pursue a master’s in education with a concentration in school counseling.
“I knew Dominguez Hills has one of the best education degrees in the state, so I looked into the counseling [concentration] and I was really interested,” he recalled.
When a UAC staff position became available in 2009, Valdez jumped at the chance and was hired as a full-time advisor.
“What better way to use my skills and the news skills that I was learning in the [master’s] program?” posed Valdez, who graduated with an M.A. in school counseling in 2012.
Valdez not only found his niche in school counseling, but he found that, in particular, he was able to relate to new students, many who come from the same type of community that he had.
“I kind of know the experience that our freshman and transfer students, to some extent, have,” said Valdez, who grew up in South Gate. “I know the potential that the students of Dominguez Hills have.”
With an interest in helping to ensure the success of first-time college students, in 2010 he developed the university’s Mandatory Freshman Advising (MFA) workshops that are designed to inform students about general education requirements, and requirements for graduation such as units, GPA, Writing Requirement Examination, majors, registration processes and deadlines, and campus resources.
The work demands attention to detail, but Valdez enjoys it because, he says, “students leave the office, with timely, accurate, concise, information that will help move them forward.”
Valdez makes a point to tell students, “Our main goal is to have you achieve your main goal, which is graduation.”
Notwithstanding his personal commitment, Valdez views the contributions made to students and the university as part of a team effort, crediting his nine advising counterparts and other UAC staff members.
Since the arrival of Peter Kim as the director of the UAC a year ago, Valdez and his colleagues have been encouraged to engage in professional development activities such as attending and presenting at major conferences in their field. Valdez couldn’t be more pleased.
Valdez, along with three other UAC advisors, Norma Palacios, Loren Edwards, and Sheryl Valdoria, presented “Academic Roadmaps versus Academic Flowcharts” at the National Academic Advising Association Annual Conference held earlier this month in Salt Lake City, Utah and at the Regional Conference held at the University of Southern California in March. In May Valdez also attended the 12th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences.
Valdez considers such activities beneficial for both advisors and the university.
“Participating in conferences is important not only to grow as professionals, but every time we go to a conference, we get the Dominguez Hills name out there. We let people know who we are and what we are doing,” he said.
Because of his accomplishments and contributions, Valdez was honored with the 2013 Staff Exemplary Achievement Award, which was presented during a reception held in the Loker Student Union on Sept. 26.
In a nomination letter, Kim described Valdez as “an outstanding leader; coordinating, delegating, and executing the necessary actions to ensure a high level of quality advising services to all CSUDH students.”
Kim went on to write, “He not only furnishes timely, accurate, consistent, and reliable information, but his positive demeanor and unyielding willingness to help students is truly notable. In the process, Mr. Valdez has garnered the respect and admiration of the collective staff of the University Advisement Center, as well as among professional colleagues across the campus.”
Valdez said the award is a symbol of the accomplishments that the entire department has made, because every UAC staff member supports and helps each other in the pursuit of assisting students.
All the same, he added, “Being awarded the Exemplary Achievement Award from CSUDH is a great honor that I will always be proud of. I am truly grateful to Dr. Kim for having nominated me for the award.”