Student counselor wins campuswide UCLA management award
Sandy Valdivieso. (Photo courtesy of Claudia Defaz)

Student counselor wins campuswide UCLA management award

Sandy Valdivieso, a double UCLA alumna, is an advisor to undergraduate Bruins in the International Development Studies and Global Studies Programs.

This award validates all the lessons I have learned and try to instill in my students, peers and mentees: be intentional about your actions, foster relationships with people you trust and respect, be persistent, stick to your beliefs even when outcomes are uncertain and push for what you need.

UCLA International Institute, June 16, 2020 — Sandy Valdivieso, associate director of advising for International Institute Academic Programs, has been awarded the 2020 EXCEL Award by the UCLA Administrative Management Group (AMG).

AMG is a campus organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for professional growth and development at UCLA and serve as a forum for effective communication between academic, administrative and service managers and professionals at UCLA.

The EXCEL award, conferred yearly on one staff member from across all of campus, honors management excellence. It recognizes an individual who has had a significant and lasting impact on the people they lead, and who exemplifies the leadership qualities that UCLA values.

Sandy was recognized for her leadership in the Academic Programs and the International Institute as a whole, where she advises students and oversees the overall administration of the International Development Studies and Global Studies Programs.

“Congratulations, Sandy! This is wonderful news, and such a well-deserved recognition,” said Cindy Fan, UCLA vice provost for international studies and global engagement. “We’re so proud of you and we’re so lucky to have you in the International Institute family. Thank you for all your deep contributions to the Institute and for so creatively and generously sharing your wisdom and talents to enrich UCLA students’ education and experience.”

Adds Chris Erickson, senior associate vice provost and director of the International Institute, “My congratulations as well on this well-deserved honor.”

“I’m truly humbled by this honor and feel extremely fortunate and thankful to know and work with such an amazing group of people at the International Institute,” says Sandy.

“I greatly appreciate Erica Anjum for having believed in me to submit the nomination and Ron Sugano for all the encouragement and support throughout these years. And I’m deeply grateful to everyone who submitted nomination letters for this award,” she continues.

Persistent road to success

Born in Ecuador, Sandy migrated to the United States while in high school. She went on to attend community college and ultimately completed both a B.A. in psychology (with a minor in Latin American Studies) and an M. Ed. in counseling and student affairs at UCLA. She joined the International Institute in 2008 after first working as a student counselor in the statistics department and School of Public Health at UCLA. 

At the International Institute, she recounts, “One of my goals is to collaboratively devise programs and strategies to create a sense of a small liberal university in what often feels like a very large and overwhelming place for students, especially first-generation students who have so much to offer to our campus.”

In addition to advising students, Sandy has been an integral part of the team behind the annual International Institute Graduate Student “Going Global” conferences, led the creation of the Academic Programs’ informative student newsletter, revamped the honors program and regularly collaborates with faculty program chairs and advisory committees to assess and improve curriculum and policies. 

“I have been working with Sandy for almost 12 years and I keep on learning new things from her every day,” says institute colleague and fellow student counselor Madga Yamamoto. “It’s been a pleasure working with her for all these years, both on a professional and personal level.

“Sandy works very hard on improving the institute’s academic programs,” continues Magda. “She goes out of her way to make students feel welcome and convey that that the International Institute is their home. She takes their opinions very seriously, always trying to look at their UCLA experiences from their perspective.” 

Sandy is also involved with multiple campus committees, including the Advisors Professional Development Program and the Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion of the International Institute, and has served as the president of the Latino Staff and Faculty Association.

Apart from work, Sandy is an inveterate traveler who lived in Vietnam for a year and an athlete who plays tennis, basketball and is proficient in several martial arts. A calm and friendly presence at the Institute, Sandy is well known to her peers, who add their heartfelt congratulations on her 2020 EXCEL Award.

Reflecting on her achievements

“In 1998, I came to the U.S. from Ecuador,” says Sandy. “Uprooted and struggling to learn English during my senior year in high school, never did I envision that all my hard work and diligence would enable me to graduate from UCLA with two degrees, much less put me in a position to work on campus for 13 years and earn the prestigious campuswide UCLA leadership award.

“The many challenges and difficulties I face as an immigrant woman of color pushed me to work twice as hard to be heard, taken seriously and be respected from my peers, staff and faculty,” she adds. “The EXCEL award helps validate the continuous efforts I have made to improve myself and those around me.

“It has not been easy, as I have made my share of mistakes and faced numerous obstacles along the way, but I have learned to be resilient and develop mental strength through these difficult times.

“I am grateful to have a strong network of people that encourages and empowers me in supporting others facing similar challenges,” she continues. “I owe this award to these individuals, especially Erica Anjum for nominating me and continuously inspiring me with her dedication and leadership.

Sandy concludes, “This award validates all the lessons I have learned and try to instill in my students, peers and mentees: be intentional about your actions, foster relationships with people you trust and respect, be persistent, stick to your beliefs even when outcomes are uncertain and push for what you need.”