Kelly Alvarado-Young’s undergraduate journey spanned four colleges, nearly 3,000 miles, and plenty of life’s obstacles thrown in along the way. She’s now working hard to ensure WSU students develop a sense of belonging and are supported in their goals so that their experiences are hopefully much smoother.
Alvarado-Young is WSU’s new director of New Student Programs. She takes a holistic, equity centered approach to supporting student transition, emphasizing seven central principles of student success outcomes in all programming: personal validation, self-efficacy, sense of purpose, active involvement, reflective thinking, social integration, and self-awareness.
“I think the biggest thing is, orientation is a process, not just an event,” Alvarado-Young said. “The first six weeks are critical, but there’s so much that needs to happen during that first year for students to be successful. Our office helps to build that bridge for students from recruitment to becoming part of the Coug family.”
Alvarado-Young comes to WSU from Gonzaga University, where she was the inaugural director of First-Year Experience Programs since 2014.
“That position really prepared me for WSU,” she said. “I was able to hone all my skills in student development and support. Gonzaga is very spirited and community-oriented. I feel that same school spirit at WSU.”
“I also saw in WSU, a commitment to diversity and equity. It was very important to me to see women in key leadership roles here.”
One of those leaders is Vice President for Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales. Alvarado-Young met Gonzales in 2010 at a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Western Regional meeting and she’s served as a valuable mentor and friend over the past decade.
Alvarado-Young completed her Ph.D. from Oregon State earlier this year. A product of community college herself, Alvarado-Young’s dissertation focused on the processes and support systems for Latinx students intending to transfer from Hispanic-serving community colleges in Washington state to baccalaureate programs. It’s a passion that stems from her own experience as a first-generation student.
“I was academically prepared, however, my family didn’t know how to support me in the college-going experience since neither one of my parents had the opportunity to finish high school in Puerto Rico,” said Alvarado-Young. “Within the first six weeks of the semester at a large, public institution in New York, I dropped out. This experience is what fuels my commitment to first-year student success.”