¡MÁXIMO! ERG Member Spotlight - Michelle Valenzuela
How long have you worked for Maximus, and what is your position?
I’ve been with Maximus for 13 years and I am currently the project manager for the Texas Vital Statistics project.
What is your alma mater, and how did your time at a Hispanic Serving Institute impact your educational and personal growth?
I graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). I actually began my college career at a different university but transferred to UTSA when I moved to San Antonio. Until I started at UTSA, I suffered terribly from imposter syndrome – I didn’t feel like I belonged! I was the first in my family to attend college and only signed up because of my encouraging high school teachers. College wasn’t really a topic of discussion in my immigrant family. Our concerns were always to financially survive the day, week, or month.
When I began college, I had no idea what I was doing or what my goals were. All I knew was that students with potential like myself should go to college, but I had no sense of belonging or direction. My life experiences and planning didn’t match those of my classmates, and I truly questioned what I was doing there. When I transferred to UTSA, I was blown away at how much better I “fit.” The university truly embraces its city which is made up of 64% Latinx people. From Latinx guest speakers to work in the community, I always felt represented and “seen.” That’s when I realized that I needed to stop doubting myself and that I belonged in higher education.
What role do you believe Hispanic Serving Institutions play in promoting educational opportunities for the Hispanic/Latinx community?
I believe it’s here to confirm that Latinx and Hispanic students belong in higher education and that we have so much to contribute to academics.
Can you share an experience from your time as a student of an HSI that you believe embodies the spirit of HSI Week?
Besides the great Latinx speakers and events, I’d have to say my graduation. To my surprise, a mariachi band came out and serenaded all the grads at the end of the event. What a sendoff!
What advice can you offer to current and prospective students of an HSI to make the most of their experience?
Be bold and be vocal. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences or opinions, especially if they may differ from others. We may be newer voices, but that means we have new perspectives to offer our classmates and professors. You can create change for the future by simply engaging and, at times, it’ll create change in you.