Roberto C. Valadez is no stranger to overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Born in Chicago, and shortly thereafter raised in Mexico, Valadez found himself at age 18 back in the United States on a community college campus with the goal of learning English. As a low-income recent immigrant, he was the first in his family to attend college and did not have the needed help to assist him in navigating the higher education system.
Facing language and financial barriers, Valadez felt his future was uncertain. But quitting was simply not an option. Inspired by the support and example of his father as well as surrounding family, he committed to chasing his career goals to guide others in their educational pursuits.
After completing English Acquisition courses, Valadez earned an Associate in Arts degree and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in finance from North Park University.
A proud community college graduate, Valadez is armed with nearly 20 years of experience in a variety of roles in higher education prior to arriving to COD last year as the Director of Pathways for Student Success. During his career, he has worked with guided pathways program integration at multiple institutions, including City Colleges of Chicago and San Diego City College. Most recently, he was Dean of Student Equity at San Diego City College. Before that, he served as the TRIO-Student Support Services Program Director at Harry S. Truman College, a federal educational opportunity outreach program designed to motivate and support under-resourced students.
Valadez said it is through his own journey that he knows firsthand the uncertainty and challenges that many College of DuPage students face. He has lived through those challenges and has come out on the other side as a passionate advocate for higher education and, especially, student success. This devotion informs everything he does and puts students’ needs at the forefront of his work.
“I want our students to feel they are a part of a community,” he said. “My goal is to create a seamless onboarding process for students, where they can develop a sense of belonging in a short amount of time.”
Experiencing the transformative power of education, Valadez describes his job as more of a calling than a career.
“I’ve been doing this for approximately 20 years,” he said. “I know education is a one-way ticket to a better future. I’ve walked in my students’ shoes. I sincerely aim to make a positive impact on our students and the College. To witness our students come to us, grow and find success and to know you are a part of that success is amazing.”
In his role at the College, Valadez focuses on a student-centered approach to getting students on an educational pathway providing support throughout their time at COD and beyond. He also knows that faculty support is an integral piece of the Guided Pathways framework implementation.
“To develop a successful Guided Pathways infrastructure, faculty need to be part of the decision-making process,” he said.
Valadez added that his ultimate goal is to address the structural barriers that impact student advancement and develop a fair framework that ensures COD students persist, graduate and transfer.
“I always have that student lens in mind when developing our pathways program,” he said. “I consider what a student feels, sees and experiences at the College and address the work on that level. Entering college can be intimidating and, through guided pathways, we aim to take the guesswork out of it for students.”
Valadez said he is thrilled with his experiences at COD.
“The community at COD really embraces and exemplifies a student-centric culture,” he said. “That is a beautiful thing. The faculty, staff and administrators really care about our students. I’m proud to be a part of such a great institution. “