Alumni Spotlight

Dr. Cecilia Santiago-Gonzalez ’02
Senior Coordinator of Orientation Services
Cal Poly Pomona

Major: Social Work

Minor: Spanish

Activities: Hispanic Students Association, Social Work Council

What first attracted you to Whittier College? Honestly, I did not know much about Whittier College before I applied. My high school counselor encouraged me to look into Whittier. Since I came from a large urban high school, he thought I would benefit and excel in a small classroom environment, which I did.

Why did you choose to study social work? I have always been interested in helping people and engaged in social justice issues. Social work was a perfect fit because it empowered me to see myself as a change agent who could make a difference in people’s lives and counteract social inequities. I also appreciated the program's strengths-based approach to practice, which has contributed greatly to my formation as an educator.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What was your favorite class? There were so many! I enjoyed all of my social work classes, of course! I particularly enjoyed a paired course that used data to address and find solutions to social problems. This particular class has been instrumental in how I have approached my academic and professional career.

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? As part of my social work major fieldwork requirement, I interned 16 hours per week during my senior year at the Los Angeles Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. I learned so much from this experience, which I brought back into the classroom. I was not only able to apply theoretical frameworks that I learned in the class to my practice, but I was able to bring the knowledge I gained from my practice back into the classroom. It was truly an authentic learning exchange.

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? My first job after Whittier College was as an admissions counselor in the office of admissions and financial aid at Whittier College, which has lead to a decade long career in higher education. Currently, I am the Senior Coordinator of Orientation Services at Cal Poly Pomona and an adjunct faculty member at Cal State Fullerton in the educational leadership program. My Whittier education has been the foundation and the stimulus to all that I've been able to accomplish. It has prepared me to be a critical thinker, accepting of different perspectives, a conscience writer, and a change agent.

What advice would you give to future social work alumni when they graduate? The social work program has prepared you more than you can imagine to take on the challenges that social workers face on a daily basis. Be courageous, confident, and use the tools that your Whittier College education has provided to make a difference and change the world. You can do it!

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… my Whittier education and the relationships I have built with faculty and staff have shaped me as an educator, practitioner, and human being.

-Are you a graduate of the Department of Social Work and want to share you story? Contact the Office of Communications at therock@whittier.edu