April: Marcella Flores

I began my professional journey before I even considered myself a “professional” and I would say I have ended up where I am today due to the incredible support  and mentors I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to know. I grew up in Edmonds, Washington (a little north of Seattle). The high school I attended had a large Deaf program, where I began taking American Sign Language courses and fell in love with the language and culture. 

As a first generation student, I was unsure if I even wanted to go off to college to obtain a degree, but I did know that I wanted to “make a lot of money” and a degree was a way to work at that goal. So when investigating schools I found Western Oregon University that had a business degree (I can make lots of money in that right?) and also offered ASL classes. Thankfully, during my time at WOU, I learned that I was not so good at my business classes but I realized I was pretty good at ASL and I cared much more for those courses and Deaf culture. Thus, I obtained my Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language/English Interpreting. 

Throughout my undergraduate time at WOU, I had incredible mentors who trusted me with many opportunities that allowed me to grow tremendously. At WOU, I was heavily involved with Orientation Programs, Service Learning, Career Development, and student leadership. From these experiences, I learned I loved Higher Education, particularly Student Affairs. One day, someone said “you know you can do this as a job, right?” and that’s when I decided to go on and obtain my master’s degree in College Student Services Administration (CSSA) at Oregon State University.  

My largest lesson through WOU was that I wanted to be a mentor (just as I had during my undergraduate years), to help students get to college, but also to support students throughout their time and help them in their successes. I wanted to see students be challenged, I wanted to see students grow, and I wanted to see the impact those students would make on the world. I knew that overall, service was important to me; whether as an interpreter, or orienting students to campus, or serving our communities and world; this led me to pursue those avenues in my career.  

Thankfully, during my two years at OSU I had an assistantship in the office of New Student Programs and Family Outreach. This opportunity led me to better understand the ins and outs of what it means to work in orientation, and it solidified that I loved the programming pieces, the excitement on a student’s face when coming to campus for the first time, and the process of supporting students and their family members during a time of high emotion (sometimes positive, sometimes negative, I enjoy them both). 

As I neared the end of my graduate program, a Coordinator for Orientation Programs at Portland State position opened up; though I had yet to graduate, I threw my name in the hat! Thankfully, I was offered the position and had great supervisors at OSU who allowed me to leave early, and a great supervisor at PSU who allowed me to commute to classes for a term. I then graduated with my Master of Education in CSSA with an emphasis in First Year Students and Transition. 

Fast forward a year and that great supervisor at PSU took another position. Again, I threw my name in the hat to fill his role and was offered that position. I currently am the Assistant Director for New Student Programs at PSU. Through my time at PSU, I have learned a lot. I would say, as a newer professional this campus has been absolutely perfect for me. I have been challenged in a variety of ways and learned more than I ever could have anticipated. It definitely has not been the easiest, especially with the personnel transitions but I’ve loved the city, the campus, the students, my colleagues, and every opportunity where I have learned a lot from challenges presented to me. My time at PSU has allowed me to have the freedom to make changes both small and large with our programming, partner with incredible colleagues who understand, support, and collaborate with us in the creation of our programs, and work with brilliant students. 

In addition, I am involved with NODA (Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education). I currently sit on our Regional Leadership Team and will be our Region 1 Conference Host at the end of this month (February). Through this association, I have built a great network of colleagues across the country that are always a phone-call away to bounce ideas off of and I have learned a lot from each conference and professional development opportunity they offer. Again, these experiences have solidified my desire to remain in the field of orientation, transition and retention. 

People always ask, what’s my next plan? What’s my next step? Personally, I would NEVER have told you I would be sitting in the position I am currently at PSU a few years ago. So I guess my next step is to continue to serve in whatever capacity available, network with like-minded colleagues, continue to ask the question “why” in my current role to remain challenged, throw my name in the hat for every opportunity that presents itself to me, and see where that leads me, as it has served me well so far.

ABOUT MARCELLA

Marcella Flores is the Assistant Director for New Student Programs at Portland State University. As the Assistant Director for New Student Programs she is responsible for overseeing all that is Orientation and Viking Days (welcome week programming). New Student Programs at PSU encompasses 29 Orientation sessions annually, online orientation, coordination of the 125+ events during Viking Days, parent and family programming, overseeing 35 orientation leaders, and everything in between in helping welcome and introduce new students to the PSU community. 

ADVICE

  1. Throw your name in the hat for opportunities even if you do not believe you are the person for the role. There is no harm in trying, going out on a limb, and giving it your best shot. Be confident in who you are and what you bring to the table. 
  2. Network, network, network! From building a network of mentors who encourage and support you to building a network of colleagues who can help you navigate challenges in the field. My mentors at WOU, OSU, PSU and NODA are one of the largest reasons I am where I am today, without them, I would not have learned what I have to get me to where I am today. They’re the ones I think of daily and cannot thank enough for all that they’ve done for me. 

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