Highline College

Thursday, September 24, 2020

VP candidate wants to bring experiences to new position

Caleb RuppertStaff Reporter April 23

A candidate for the new Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion wants to bring her experiences as an immigrant, communicator, and educator to the new position.

“In every position I’ve worked in, I’ve learned you need to communicate. I’ve learned to be a good listener and communicator,” said Dr. Veronica “Vero” Guajardo, one of three finalists for Highline’s new vice president of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Dr. Guajardo said she wants to bring her communication skills to the new job and spend much of her initial time on campus learning about how different departments operate, and how students, faculty and staff will be willing to work with her in the new position.

“I want to listen and engage the campus community,” she said at a recent campus forum via Zoom.

Dr. Guajardo said that her previous experiences in both larger and small college settings has uniquely prepared her for this new position.

She worked for a small college, Gavilan College, in Gilroy, Calif. The college taught her to be accountable to students, she said.

“It was a small college, and that challenge taught me how to budget…it taught me to think meticulously about how decisions I make affect staff and students,” she said.

She contrasted that experience with her experiences at larger colleges like University of Washington and the University of California.

“In my current position (at University of Washington) I miss direct contact with students. … I try to instill connections with students,” she said.

Small schools may have fewer resources, but they are more intimate and personal, which is something she enjoys, Dr. Guajardo said.

Helping to build community is something that she wants to bring to the new position. Community college students are not a monolith, she said. She wants to encourage all students to decide for themselves what community is and she will encourage students to explore and join different clubs.

“Encouraging community building can be a good tool to help students with personal issues as well as academic issues such as assuring retention,” she said.

Dr. Guajardo comes from an immigrant family and experienced loss early in life. As a child her parents immigrated to the United States, and while she was still young her father died.

Her mother could have decided to move them back to South America but chose to stay in the United States as an undocumented cannery worker, Dr. Guajardo said.

Dr. Guajardo struggled in school, but always liked it, she said. She thought she would end up in the cannery, but with the help of programs like MESA, TRiO, and Puente, she was able to graduate and achieve academic success.

Acknowledging where someone comes from is critical to understanding how they can bring and achieve success, Dr. Guajardo said.