Meeting Her Moment

July 09, 2021

By Adrienne Egolf

For Barbara Valdez ’21, there was no better time than a global pandemic to fulfill her longtime dream of finishing her degree.

Barbara Valdez ’21

Barbara Valdez ’21 likes helping people. That’s what drew her to the field of human resources—being sensitive to employees, finding their motivations, supporting their development. So when she decided to finish her bachelor’s degree, she was keen on finding a school that met her own needs as a mid-career student with big dreams for the future.

At Rollins’ Hamilton Holt School, Valdez found the perfect blend of programming, personalization, and guidance. She found insight and encouragement from faculty and admission counselors alike as she made the decision to finish her degree amid a global pandemic that was threatening her job prospects. Her apprehensions and fears were soon replaced with confidence and direction as she embarked on reaching this lifelong goal around which she felt renewed urgency.

“At the Holt School, they took my thoughts and feedback into consideration,” says Valdez. “It coincides with how supportive the faculty and staff are. They create an environment and a culture conducive to learning. And when you’re in HR, that’s what you try to do in organizations too. You want to help them develop and help them grow. That’s basically what Rollins does for students.”

Soon after graduating, the results of her efforts were already paying off. She landed a role as director of human resources and operations at local staffing firm Kolter Solutions. We recently sat down with the new grad to talk about her experience as a nontraditional student and how the Holt School uniquely prepared her for success.

How did your experience at the Hamilton Holt School help advance your career? “I majored in organizational behavior, which is a cross between human resources and psychology because it’s about behavior at work—our motivation, our tendencies in how we recruit people. It was perfect for me and my career. I got a salary increase after I graduated, and it’s because they wanted to retain me—they knew my potential and that I would continue wanting to grow.”

What makes the Holt School stand out? “Rollins has a great reputation, and I wanted to go to a school that was good for older adults. I didn’t want to go to a college primarily for young adults that wasn’t considerate of different challenges that we face as continuing learners. That’s what drew me to the Holt School. Many of the students have been out of school for a long time, and they tailor each student’s experience to their own needs and interests. It’s a small, close-knit environment, and you come away with a real-life education. My academic advisor, Debbie Tatum, was very special to me. She helped me get through difficult classes, and on a personal level, she spent so much time encouraging me so I could really reach my goals.”

What kind of opportunities did you have outside the classroom? “Sometimes you think when you go to school in the evenings you’re not able to be as involved. You’re working full time, you’re going to school part time, and a lot of the things that go on at the school are during the day. But at Holt, I had the chance to attend events with guest speakers through Rollins’ Center for Leadership & Community Engagement, volunteer at a local community organization for children, and have dinner at the home of the Rollins president because I was nominated by a professor. I really felt connected to the community and developed important relationships with my classmates, staff, and faculty that I know will continue.”

What were some of the most important real-life lessons you took away from your time at Holt? “One of the first classes I took at Rollins was a career planning course that was actually taught by someone who worked at a placement company that helps people in transition, which I was at the time. It was about looking for something that fit in with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it. How to network and get out there and pursue what you’re looking for rather than just taking what is available. It really helped me in determining my path and helped me get where I am today.”

And in your new role, you’re working directly with Rollins to recruit graduates. How did that come about? “During COVID, Rollins invited people from different offices around campus to come to our leadership class and talk to us about the services they offer, including the Center for Career & Life Planning, which helps students with resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and job searches. They also host career fairs. As I learned more, I thought, ‘This is great. I could extend the opportunity to other people and the people we’re searching for.’ It really worked out on both ends as a student and a business professional. So now my company, Kolter Solutions, works with the Center for Career & Life Planning to hire recent Rollins grads. It’s really an honor because I studied at Rollins. I’m part of that group.”

What advice would you give to people considering continuing their education? “A lot of times when we are later in life and thinking about going back to school, we’re hesitant. But I think that self-development and self-improvement don’t have an age limit. It’s very important not to doubt yourself. It’s OK to accomplish things later in life. And you pick a place that makes you feel comfortable, where you’ll get the support you need to finish because it’s not easy, and that’s what I found at the Holt School. It wasn’t easy, but it’s so worthwhile.”

Rollins College archway entry to campus.

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