As a transplant from California and former expat, Daniel Mendoza sees Las Vegas through a unique lens, one which helps him guide future students to the opportunities and possibilities at UNLV. He is the College of Engineering’s new director of undergraduate recruitment.
A time in your life when you were daring
All of my really daring times have involved travel – twice selling my car and buying a one-way ticket!
Truly the most daring was when my wife and I decided to move to Australia. We packed our bags, and although I had done a little research about potential jobs in higher ed there, we went with nothing lined up. We just bought flights, didn’t know anybody, or where we were going to live. When we realized I wouldn’t be sponsored, we packed our bags and traveled all over Australia.
The decisions I’ve made involving travel are some of the best I’ve ever made in my life.
Inspiration to get into your field
My career journey started as an hourly student worker, working in the admissions office at Fullerton Community College. Even though I was majoring in communications/public relations, my internship in that field didn’t get me excited for it. But throughout college I continued to work in higher ed. After I graduated from California State University, Fullerton, they called me and said they had a position in admissions. I was there for about a year and found out I really enjoyed it and that there were different niches within higher education that I could get involved in. My supervisors noticed I did really well with students and recommended I go into advising. So I applied to a graduate program, got accepted, and have been working with students ever since.
Best advice for someone new to UNLV
Get involved in something. As a new employee or student, it’s easy to get stuck in your office or dorm room, because you’re busy and have so much to learn. But you need to try and find some other areas you have interest in. Get involved with organizations, connect with clubs, join outside groups. It will make your experience so much better.
When my wife and I came out, we didn’t know anybody. As an academic advisor (with the College of Education) I became involved with the Academic Advisors Council and was part of Rebels Rise. I think it’s important to try a lot of different things and see what sticks.
Advice would you give your younger self
The advice I just gave above! I guess I’ve learned from my past. Get involved. As soon as you’re on campus. I went to a commuter school and even though I lived down the road from campus, I just went to classes, went to work, and went home.
When out in the community or traveling, the biggest misconception you encounter about UNLV
The biggest misconceptions I come across about UNLV, are really about Las Vegas. When people think of Las Vegas, they think of the Strip and don’t really realize there’s a community here. I always encourage students to come to campus and take a look at the city and at UNLV. I think it surprises a lot of people when they’re here. My campus tour during my interview process really sold me on the university and the city.
One thing I always share with people is the accessibility to the outdoors. One of the biggest reasons my wife and I chose to live here is because it’s central to so many national parks.
Someone on campus you would like to thank
There are multiple faculty and staff members across campus who have gone out of their way to offer help and advice when I asked; they know who they are! Such as the College of Education’s student services team. They quickly made me feel like part of the family. They threw a baby shower for me and my wife, took me out for my birthday, and really became my family and friends. When I look back at my first three years here, I really look back at that office and that team making us comfortable here in Vegas when we didn’t know anybody. Barb Roberts and the entire admissions team have also made life here on campus enjoyable and fulfilling.
An object in your office that has a significance for you
My sports medals. I’m very active and very competitive and have always played sports. But sometimes I slack off on working out if I don’t have something to work toward. So two years ago I signed up for my first half marathon. I really enjoyed it, and then had a friend invite me to do a sprint triathlon (shorter distances than full triathlons). The swimming was by far the most challenging aspect. But it was a lot of fun and I want to sign up for the next version, which would be the Olympic triathlon. I’ve also participated in the Corporate Challenge on UNLV’s Corporate Ninja and 5K teams.
A permanent, sponsored position didn’t come your way when you were in Australia. But if you had the opportunity now to live and work there, or somewhere else internationally, would you?
(Without even letting the interviewer finish their question…) Oh, I’d be gone. In a second.
But on a serious note, my wife and I talk about it all the time. And especially for my daughter, being in a school in a different country, picking up a different language, and just experiencing something different. It is really important to me for her, whether in the short or long-term future, that she live abroad. I think what an individual gets out of it is immeasurable. It’s such a great experience.