To Enrique Guzman, greetings are critical. “It’s important for students to feel welcome; that they have a place here,” he says.

When he sees parents dropping off students each summer, he welcomes them too. If he hears them speaking in Spanish, he addresses them en español — his own native tongue. He knows that the small effort of meeting families where they are makes them feel comfortable and accepted. “My parents were farmworkers,” he says. “When they accompanied me to campus visits or to a workshop, I always loved when people brought resources in Spanish and made sure they understood what was going on. I try to carry this through in my work.”

Enrique, who recently completed the Executive Leadership Academy (ELA) at UC Berkeley, has come a long way from his humble beginnings. Today, at UC Merced, he is associate director of student involvement and advisor for the Associated Students of UC California, Merced, Campus Activities Board.

Helping students succeed is a longtime passion. After college, a mentor proposed that Enrique consider taking a position in student affairs at Bowling Green State University. He was blown away to learn that he could build a career doing what he loves — lifting others up. While working, he began graduate school, where one of his mentors was from UC Merced; he proposed that Enrique help recruit students via the UC Scholars Program. In 2002, Enrique brought this program to the fledgling UC Merced campus, where he has worked since.

Every time he encounters a first-generation student, Enrique sees a reflection of himself. “They have the same questions, worries and concerns that I did. Many of them have imposter syndrome — they don’t feel like they belong. I tell them, ‘You are here. You’ve already proven yourself. You are resilient.’ And then I tell them, ‘Here are the resources available to you. I am also here to help, and we are going to get you to graduation.’”

Meet Enrique

Name: Enrique M. Guzman

Title: Associate Director, Student Involvement; Advisor, Associated Students of University of California, Merced, Campus Activities Board

Department/Unit: Office of Student Involvement

Location: UC Merced

When I started working at UC: 2001

What I do for UC in five words or less: I empower student success

The best thing about my job: Working with amazing students, families and colleagues!

Why I love working for UC: The opportunity to help our students learn, develop and grow into amazing leaders.

Something people don’t know about me: I enjoy running and enjoy watching movies right when they come out.  I would go to the movies three times a day! My three favorite films are “The Dark Knight,” “Toy Story” (the original), and “The Godfather” or “Die Hard” (it’s a tie).

One person (living or dead) whom I’d love to have dinner with: John F. Kennedy, he’s an icon I have admired as a child, I would love to know answers to so many personal questions I have!

The best career advice I’ve received: Every person you meet is a potential door to a new opportunity — personally or professionally. Build good bridges even in that just-for-now job, because you never know how they’ll weave into the larger picture of your life.