Director of the UVU First-Gen Student Success Center
M.Ed. Educational Leadership & Policy, 2020
After his undergraduate degree, Emilio took a 4-year break. When he returned to the classroom, it was as a non-matriculated student. His very first class in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy confirmed that this program was the right choice! Emilio loved having a positive impact and having spent the previous 7 years in higher ed student support working with first-generation college students, he thought his future career would be in programming and student advising (e.g., evaluating the impact student services have on student success and student outcomes). But as Emilio continued taking classes, his professors pushed him to think beyond the status quo of education, past accepting education as it was. With their encouragement, Emilio began to think of education as something transformative, that could go beyond support to actually improving students’ lives. It was through his courses and with his professors’ support that Emilio found his future career: educational administration. Now, Emilio is the inaugural Director of First-Generation Student Success Center at Utah Valley University (UVU). His role includes center administration, fundraising, working with the educational advisory core on recruitment, overseeing scholarships, outreach, engaging community partners, and managing staff. What started as an initiative was able to turn into the full-fledged Center UVU has today, and Emilio is looking forward to growing the Center even more.
But he isn’t done yet. Emilio and his team are shaping their First-Gen Center into a national leader for student support and refashioning student support into a mentor-oriented model where first-generation college students are matched with non-first-generation students. Emilio has learned that universities need to recognize students’ talents and catch up to where students are—old models aren’t working the way they used to. His team is recruiting students of color and other underserved student populations like Filipinos, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders in Salt Lake and Utah Counties. The Center at UVU is designated as a First-Gen Forward institution and is part of the First Scholars program through NASPA (National Association of Student Affairs Personnel Administrators). Under Emilio’s leadership the Center is extending its reach across the state, region, and even the nation.
Although Emilio was already a long-time community-service activist, his ELP capstone project deepened those connections and gave him the additional skills he would later need as Center Director. For him, student affairs professionals must come from the communities they aim to serve. As a Tagalog-Bikolnon Filipino, Asian American, first-generation college student, queer man, Emilio uses his life experiences and his training to better serve and connect with his constituents.