My First Job: Gisela Valencia

A person’s first job in their field of choice kickstarts their career and sets the tone for the future. We spoke to recent graduates who make up the CASE community to learn more about what their first experience looked like. This is one in a series we’ve titled My First Job.

Attending FIU was a no brainer for two time CASE alumna and Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs junior account manager, Gisela Valencia. 

The university gave Valencia’s parents, both first generation graduates, the opportunity to attend college.

“FIU has always been a family tradition for me. My parents came to FIU and my aunts came to FIU,” Valencia said.

Set on making the most out of her undergraduate experience, she wasted no time getting involved. Valencia worked her way up to becoming the student president of the TEDxFIU Club. During her term, she met with the Division of External Relations, Strategic Communications and Marketing team to discuss event logistics for the TEDxFIU 2015 event. Among those she met with was Terry Witherell, vice president of the Division of External Relations, Strategic Communications and Marketing. 

“We started talking and I knew she was related to the FIU magazine somehow. I asked her if there were any openings for internships or something that I could get experience in. She pointed me to Karen Cochrane and the News & Communications team. It turns out there was an availability and I became an intern there,” Valencia said.

She crossed the stage in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in English, a minor in communication arts and a certificate in professional and public writing, but she wasn’t ready to distance herself from the university just yet. 

“I always knew I wanted to do two things. I wanted to write and I also wanted to be in the higher education environment, so FIU was the perfect place.”

Valencia transitioned to her current role over two years ago and began pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration. 

“The master’s in higher education administration is a great program, and one that really grounded me in the history and current landscape of the field. Through my courses, professors and my student practicum in FIU’s Office of the President, I deepened my understanding and strengthened my passion for working in a higher education setting – particularly at FIU,” Valencia said.

Throughout her undergraduate and graduate careers, Valencia had many professors that made an impact on her work ethic today. One in particular was Dr. Glenn Hutchinson Jr.

“I learned a lot from him in terms of the process of writing, but also how to approach critiquing other people’s writing,” Valencia said. 

Today, Valencia is the junior account manager for the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs. Her day to day consists of wearing multiple hats as she writes stories for FIU News and SIPA News, assists in creating marketing materials and maintains the school’s website, among many other responsibilities.  

“It is kind of a 360 job. For example, I get to help create promotional materials for events, promote the event to our students and to our community, cover the event for FIU News and show how it’s helping our academic community and what it is adding to our students’ experience.”

Of the many events she’s attended and the stories she’s had the privilege of sharing, her favorite is about a group of veterans she met while covering FIU’s WWII Veterans Recognition Award Ceremony. 

“I got to look in their eyes and one of them told me, ‘When I arrived after WWII, I got off the bus and everyone saw me in uniform. No one said thank you.’ It was these kinds of experiences that really showed me the importance of paying it forward,” Valencia said.  

Ten years from now, Valencia hopes to still be at FIU working in communications.

“I don’t know what that will look like, but I want to be telling FIU’s story in some way or shape. I want to be a part of it.”