NUFP Alumna takes Knowledge to Rio Hondo College

naspa community college division

Rocio H. Fajardo, Ed.D.

September 27, 2017

Where are you studying? In what degree program are you enrolled?

I am currently a first-year graduate student at the University of Southern California studying Educational Counseling in the Rossier School of Education.

What interested you in the program/field?

Being a resident assistant as an undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara really opened the doors of the student affairs world for me. I realized that working for students was very self-satisfying and that I possessed the power to influence students to succeed and reach their goals. I enjoyed the advising aspect of being a resident assistant and decided I wanted to continue doing that and thus chose to pursue a counseling career in higher education. I specifically chose the University of Southern California because of their emphasis on creating professionals that will change urban education locally, nationally, and globally. It is important in this field to not only help students individually with their needs, but to also implement change wherever we can to shape institutions to fit the needs of its student population.

What is your current role at Rio Hondo?

I’m currently a Student Success Coach at Rio Hondo College where I get to work under the General Counseling department. Through General Counseling I am gaining a lot of experience, I have the opportunity to conduct Basic Skills presentations to our entry level English and Math courses. Through these presentations, I let students know what courses are required in order to graduate with an Associate's Degree and/or transfer to the four-year institution of their choice. In addition, I get to assist with our First-Year Success Center which focuses on helping first year college students through their process in college.

What have you learned thus far from your experience? 

Working at the community college I’ve learned that students have different needs than those at four year institutions. I have learned about the different federal and state policies in comparison to some of the four-year institutions, such as the BOG waiver here in California that assists many low-income students with their tuition, something our current CSU/UC system does not possess. Rio Hondo College is the only college within its congressional district and targets all its neighboring communities through outreach and provides access programs such as Summer Bridge, Rio Promise, and Avance. I appreciate the many interactions and student populations I have been given the opportunity to work for in my time at Rio and I am excited to see who I meet with next!

What is your ideal professional position?

My ideal position would be to be the Dean of Student Services at a community college. I want to enhance the experiences of community college students by creating policy and resource changes that align with their needs. A Dean oversees many programs, not just the general counseling department as well as has the power to write grant proposals that would assist many of the departments that fall under Student Services including First Year Success Programs, EOP&S, and many more. I would specifically be interested in implementing change and focus more on mental health services and retention programs. I do not believe there is enough emphasis on mental health programs on college campuses across the nation and although there are many services that require exceptional funding at community colleges, mental health is still an issue that prevails within these campuses and I believe that these services would enhance the experiences of our students.

What advice do you have for other Graduate Students?

My advice for fellow graduate students is to be open to working for different student populations and allow your assistantships/internships to challenge you to be a better student affairs professional. We each bring different ideas on how we want to assist and work with our students and can demonstrate that through the initiatives we bring both in the classroom and in the workplace. Lastly, in the words of Dr. Amelia Parnell (NASPA VP for Research and Policy), "make sure your work is impeccable.”

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