Paz Oliverez, associate vice president for student success at California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH), has been named a 2017 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate by the National Resource Center First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (NRC). She received the prestigious honor for her role in developing some of the most robust programs for first-year college students in the university’s history.
Under the umbrella of the award-winning two-year Bridge initiative on campus, Oliverez has led CSUDH to its highest first-year student retention rate in 22 years by providing visionary leadership and an overarching and comprehensive approach to the university’s Dominguez Hills First-Year Experience, Encounter to Excellence, and the Educational Opportunity Programs.
“We take a holistic, high-touch approach to student success that focuses on student development and engagement beginning with a Summer Bridge experience for all first-time freshmen,” said Oliverez. “By placing students into a community of support the moment they set foot on campus they gain critical college knowledge and a sense of belonging.”
CSUDH is among the most diverse campuses in the western United States, and serves the most first-generation and low-income students in the 23-campus California State University system. Sixty-one percent of the university’s students are the first in their families to go to college, and 75 percent of the first-year students arrive on campus needing mathematics and/or English remediation.
In 2013, CSUDH provided additional funds for the Bridge initiative to ensure that all incoming freshmen in need of remediation were invited to participate in the program. With Oliverez’s leadership, the fall-to-fall semester student retention rate has increased to 81 percent for CSUDH freshmen, which is a five percent jump in just five years. The university now successfully remediates 88 percent of its first-time freshmen, and the six-year graduation rate has risen quickly since 2012, with a projected increase of close to 50 percent in 2017.
Each year for the award, the NRC accepts nominations from university presidents across the U.S. for educators on campus who are doing outstanding work in student development and success. The nominees are selected by a national panel of their peers who review the nomination portfolios and select 10 individuals to be honored.
“Dr. Oliverez’ dedication to first-year programs and services has been instrumental in building a culture of student success at the university through cross-divisional partnerships focused on student learning, development, and engagement,” wrote CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan in his nomination letter. “Her positive attitude and comprehensive approach have made a huge difference in the lives of our students.”