By JAMIE VERWYS
Warm Tucson winters were just one element that led Yolanda Espinoza from Colorado to Pima Community College.
With 29 years of experience in higher education, Espinoza brings developed skills and a passion for students to the position of director of admissions and records/registrar.
“I was looking for a new challenge, and I was pleased to see this job at Pima,” Espinoza said. “I was looking for a change and better winter weather.”
Once a community college student herself, she always knew she wanted to pursue a career that allowed her to give back to community college students. She started work at PCC on Jan. 5.
“I’m a product of community college, which is something I’m very proud of,” she said. “I could just see there was a clear path for me in higher education.”
Her career began when she was a high school student in Colorado attending community college for computer courses. She was hired for an administrative position immediately after she graduated from high school.
She attended college classes while working in various areas of college administration including recruitment, records, financial aid and admissions.
Espinoza earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational development from Regis University in Denver and a master’s of education in human resources and organizational performance/change from Colorado State University.
“I was an employee and a student my entire career,” she said. “I obtained a bachelor’s degree to excel in the higher education arena.”
Most recently, Espinoza served for nine years as the director of enrollment services and registrar at Colorado’s largest community college. She believes her campus-wide role prepared her to serve PCC.
“I think my educational background has really been helpful,” she said. “It’s been human resources and organizational progress and change. We are constantly managing change, technology and exciting initiatives.”
Espinoza described her PCC position as “multifaceted.” She is responsible for a number of student services, and works with student information systems, admissions, residency, student records graduation and student demographic information.
Senior Assistant to the Provost Dolores Duran-Cerda works closely with Espinoza in the district office, and says she has absolute confidence in the registrar’s ability to improve student services.
“In the short amount of time she has been at Pima, Yolanda has made an impact on moving our college forward,” Duran-Cerda said.
“She brings experience with using technology in innovative ways that will help the college develop systems to better serve student needs and promote student success,” Duran-Cerda added. “In addition, her expertise in compliance, admissions and records procedures help meet the goals of the college.”
Espinoza’s work experience at the community college level has led her to conclude that change happens often in education. She also thinks the economy plays a large part in enrollment rates.
“I believe that these cycles occur in higher education,” she said. “In community colleges, the enrollment spikes if there is a downturn in the economy, and when the economy starts to improve, our enrollment drops.”
When the budget gets tighter, colleges must do more with less and become innovative, she said.
Though Espinoza has been the registrar for less than two months, she already feels a connection to Pima students and fellow staff.
“I really like the environment because of the students that we serve, and I also like the people that I work with,” she said. “My colleagues are very compassionate and caring people.”
The open-access mission of community colleges has driven Espinoza to improve the student process for years, and she strives to maintain that mission at Pima.
“My goals are to create more efficient, student-friendly services for students by doing process analysis and reviewing our policies in order to remove any barriers that might be in place for students currently,” she said.