For the last 23 years, Cecilia Galvan has helped scared and lost students from around the world get acclimated to life in the U.S. and on Moraine Valley’s campus. Her efforts are being recognized with the Embracing Diversity Award.

Coming from her homeland of Bolivia, Galvan understands how international students feel when they arrive and is dedicated to helping them adjust.
“Many students come here, and it’s like another planet. They’re lost, they have to start everything, learn the language, make connections. We help them learn everything – taking the bus, writing, going to the grocery store. It happened to me,” Galvan said. “We are their No. 1 resource for everything.”

Galvan provides services to about 123 students from 44 countries. She assures they meet all the requirements and regulations and are compliant as a foreign student in this country. She evaluates their educational documents and skills attained in other countries and helps the department review over 800 applications annually, accepting just 350. But that’s just the behind-the-scenes work she does.

“Cecilia’s work to recruit, enroll, retain and support international students is a primary driver of diversity at Moraine Valley. She advocates for the specific needs of international students with other departments and offices across campus. Her work helps expose our domestic students to other cultures, beliefs and languages. Her own ethnic heritage, bilingualism and participation on campus add to the campus diversity as well,” said nominators Dr. David Kleinberg, director of International Student Services (ISS), and Dr. Chet Shaw, dean of Student Services.

“I love my job. It’s become part of who and what I am. I care for the students, and they depend on me,” Galvan said. “It’s not unusual to get a report on a student from a teacher, and then you have to advocate for them, help them learn and adjust. They’re like your kids.”

Galvan is invested in her students from their timid beginnings to watching them grow, gain confidence, earn good grades and graduate.

“The growth process is the best part. It’s rewarding. That’s what you want to see,” she explained. “We have an event for our students every May before graduation. It’s hard for me to say a few words because I’m always crying.”

Every semester, ISS enrolls up to 40 new students. The department doesn’t have any slow times because they are either helping the students adjust or processing applications and working on visas. Once here, the international students go through a special orientation, tour Chicago and have learning sessions on the local culture and transportation. Galvan is part of the entire process.

“Cecilia has been the ultimate team player for taking on additional student loads and responsibilities. Her work to scale-up programs, services and experiences for international students on our campus is commendable. Her loyalty toward the mission of the college never stopped her from giving all she has to offer,” said Kleinberg and Shaw. “Her commitment, passion and investment in the success of international students on campus and providing them with life-changing experiences in studying in the U.S., makes her the candidate truly deserving of this award.”

Galvan was surprised to win the honor, especially when the announcement went out and she had a half day off. She was congratulated the next day but initially wasn’t sure why. With her gratitude for the honor came credit for others on campus.

“I’m humbled, honored and happy that all my efforts of our work is acknowledged,” Galvan noted. “However, if we don’t work as a group, I wouldn’t be able to do anything by myself. We work with other departments; it’s not just me. It’s everybody who helps students.”