Claremont, Calif. (July 30, 2021)—Pitzer College has appointed Sandra “Sandy” Vasquez, a powerful advocate for a holistic approach to student development in higher education, vice president for student affairs. Vasquez steps into this role after serving as interim vice president for student affairs since February.
Vasquez joined Pitzer’s Office of Student Affairs (OSA) as the assistant vice president and dean of students in 2017. Since that time, she has initiated or developed numerous programs geared toward student success and wellbeing, including the College’s One-Stop Student Support Center, Dean of Students Loan Program, Spanish-speaking Parent and Family Orientation, TAPAS (Trans Advocacy, Programming, Acceptance, and Support) working group, Weeks of Welcome, the Pitzer Scholars Summer Bridge Program pilot, and the Strive 2 Thrive health and wellness program. Under her leadership, Pitzer also hosted the virtual 2021 Regional Dean of Students Summit this year.
A member of Pitzer’s COVID-19 Task Force, Vasquez led the development of College’s Mindful of Each Other guidelines, the Pathway Forward: Return-to-Campus website, and student basic needs support in response to the pandemic.
“Sandy has done extraordinary work in extremely challenging times,” Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver said when he announced Vasquez’s appointment.
In his announcement, President Oliver highlighted Vasquez’s efforts to ensure all students on campus are supported, seen, and heard.
“She is a dedicated advocate and supporter of our students who works tirelessly to give voice to our students of color and first-generation students,” he said.
As Pitzer’s vice president for student affairs, Vasquez welcomes the opportunity to enrich and expand OSA’s programs that support students’ personal growth development and pathway to success.
“Our students and team in Student Affairs inspire me every single day,” she said. “Our students are innovative agents of change who live our core values in and out of the classroom. They truly are the heartbeat of Pitzer College. I couldn’t be more honored to work alongside such a dynamic, innovative, and united team in Student Affairs.”
Before Pitzer, Vasquez worked in various positions in student affairs at the University of California, Santa Barbara; California State University, San Bernardino; University of Southern California (USC); and the University of Arkansas. She traces the roots of her vocation to her parents and grandparents, who immigrated from Mexico and taught her and her siblings the value of education.
“I believe in the transformational impact that access to higher education and supporting student-success pathways and development can have on the lives of students,” she said.
She found her own path in college when a first-year seminar instructor at California State University, Northridge, asked her to stay after class to discuss and encourage her potential as a student leader. That instructor also worked in student affairs, and Vasquez, who had planned on becoming a K-12 teacher, soon became part of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Minority Undergraduate Fellowship Program. She went on to enroll in the program’s institute at USC, then earned a master’s degree in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas, and ultimately a doctorate of education in educational leadership from USC.
Vasquez’s journey in higher ed started at home then took shape with the help of an undergraduate mentor who recognized her abilities and leadership qualities.
“These foundational experiences transformed my life and shaped my passion for working with students within the field of student affairs,” Vasquez said.
She is a graduate of the Management Development Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The recipient of various institutional awards during her tenure at the University of Arkansas and USC, Vasquez was named NASPA’s Region IV-West Outstanding New Professional of the Year early in her career. Under her leadership, Cal State San Bernardino was recognized with the Institutional Award of Excellence by the National Association of Student Conduct Administration.
Vasquez believes in the power of mentorship and enjoys mentoring Pitzer students, alumni, and younger student affairs professionals.
As Pitzer prepares for students to return to campus for the first time since March 2020, Vasquez anticipates revitalizing ongoing relationships and programs and initiating new ones. Most of all, she looks forward to seeing students in person and on campus again.
“Students truly breathe life into the sayings ‘that’s so Pitzer’ and ‘the Pitzer way,’ as evidenced by some of our long-standing, student-led initiatives and programs that connect to our core values,” Vasquez said. “This is an exciting time to be at Pitzer.”