Cindy Valladares, senior finance major from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, rarely passed up an opportunity. Her involvement enriched the experiences of many others, as well as her own, leading up to her graduation in December.
With an internship canceled the summer before her final semester, Valladares volunteered to take part in the college's first Career Accelerator Program. As part of a collaboration between the Business Career Center and the Clifton Strengths Institute, the six-week summer program allowed students to gain valuable experience through project-based work.
“The most important benefit of the Career Accelerator Program is the fact that you're working on your professional growth. Instead of being discouraged about not having an internship, especially when the pandemic started, you could either work on your weaknesses or learn a new skill. I thought, ‘Okay, I won't have a summer internship, but I still need to grow professionally,’” she said.
Throughout the program, Valladares utilized Husker Connect, an online alumni mentorship platform for Huskers, to talk with real-life professionals. There she met Rob Rodriguez, ’01, who provided advice about making the most of her abilities as she steps into the professional world.
“I shared how it's important when you start your career to get breadth of experience more so than entering a role that's specific in a certain area. The more opportunities you seize earlier in your career, the more you're going to understand your organization and how your role fits into a greater set of activities happening within an organization. It's certainly been something which benefited me in my career,” said Rodriguez, who serves as the vice president and corporate controller for HDR.
Valladares’ time in the College of Business served as a testament to Rodriguez’s advice, as she worked with several organizations and took advantage of available programs. She made her time matter and looked to make an impact with the international student population.
“International students sometimes feel that because they are international, that it is baggage. I want to showcase that everything you bring from your country is an asset,” said Valladares.
Valladares participated in the college's Employment Readiness Certificate (ERC) program last spring, which is coordinated by the International Business Program and helps international students develop skills to seek internship and job opportunities. After completing the program, she paid it forward by serving as its teaching assistant and working with Mikki Sandin, international business and inclusion coordinator.
“Cindy was proactive in making improvements to the ERC program based on her own experience. She volunteered all summer to create processes and documentation to make the class run smoothly in the fall,” said Sandin, who teaches in the ERC program.
Valladares also pushed for other international student efforts at the college, including growing and leading BISA (Business International Student Association). Sandin, advisor for the organization, testified to Valladares’ impact on BISA while serving as president and previously as vice president.
“Cindy's leadership and inclusivity rejuvenated BISA. She empowers other students to step out of their comfort zone and learn to lead. She thinks of details that make others know they have a place of belonging and value in BISA,” she said.
For Valladares, working with Sandin brought nothing but encouragement and friendship throughout her college career. She appreciates Sandin for her support and engagement with students.
“Mikki has been a great support and mentor through my years at the College of Business. I enjoyed working with her when we discussed and planned the work for the Employment Readiness Certificate (ERC) students and how she was interested in my opinions about our work. We were a team that respected each other and for that I'm grateful,” said Valladares.
Valladares’ perspective benefited both Sandin and the ERC program.
“Cindy tackles the work before her with creativity, insight and energy, giving every project she works on her best effort. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Cindy blossom as a leader, stepping into the president role for BISA. She has incredible skills and character that will be an asset to her future employer,” said Sandin.
Now as Valladares approaches graduation, she thinks about helping those back in her home country of Honduras. Through her finance degree and experiences in college, she believes she found a way to help.
“Honduras has a lot of exporters. Most of our income comes from agriculture. One of the ways I was thinking of helping give back was finding a way to help farmers with their finances. I want to own my own business and focus it around agriculture because I want to help my country,” she said.
To learn more about the International Business Program, visit: https://business.unl.edu/ib.