Alumni Spotlight - Kassandra Valles
We caught up with HDF Alum Kassandra Valles to learn more about her journey from HDF Scholar to international higher education administration.
Name: Kassandra Valles
Shawnee Mission North HS '13;
The University of Kansas '17 (B.A. History and Global & International Studies)
Freie Universität Berlin '20 (M.A. Global History)
Current City: Berlin, Germany
Current Title and Role: Associate, Student Admissions at the Hertie School in Berlin, Germany
I oversee the admissions and enrollment processes for our master's programs and fixed-track dual degrees. Some of my responsibilities include evaluating applications, allocating financial aid and coordinating our scholarship program, and serving as the Account Manager for our several of our international partners. I am also heavily involved in forecasting, which helps us predict the needs of our audience and institution, and helps us provide a better customer experience. I really enjoy that this is a very multi-faceted position that allows me to cross several departments and gain new skills.
Describe what receiving the HDF scholarship meant to you:
I felt really alone during the college application process. I didn't really feel like I had anyone to relate to because my parents didn't go to college and couldn't help me with the process. Many of my friends were Anglo-American and had parents who'd gone to college, and the counselor at our school didn't have the resources to really advise us. So, it was a really special and empowering moment when I attended my first HDF awards ceremony. I always felt uncomfortable bringing my parents to school events because I thought they just didn't "get" what was going on. This was the first time I brought them to an event and felt comfortable--the first time I really felt like we could share a school experience together.
And honestly for me, it was the first time I had been in the same room with so many intelligent and driven Hispanic students. I remember making small talk with the person next to me and she told me she was getting her master's degree and that this was her 6th year receiving the HDF scholarship! Who would have thought that seven years later I would be in the same position as her?!
I came away from that reception with new excitement and motivation to start my studies. I felt like I finally had a space to connect with my community more and to support other motivated Hispanic students. The reception, and scholarship itself, became something that I always looked forward to and always felt empowered afterwards.
How did your experience as a HDF Scholar help you be successful?
The HDF scholarship allowed me to pursue various academic and professional opportunities that I may have otherwise not been able to afford. It took some of the stress of paying for college off and I was able to explore new opportunities like studying abroad. I also developed my networking skills which helped me land numerous internship and leadership positions. Overall, HDF helped me gain confidence in myself and provided a support network which kept me motivated throughout my studies and now my career. I think a lot of my interest in Higher Education comes from my involvement with HDF and its contribution to educating and advising families and students.
What advice would you give to current HDF scholars?
Don't sell yourself short! You are not your GPA, you are not your ACT score, you are not your CV. There are so many variables that go into a selection process and it's really unfortunate when I see someone stop short of applying because they think they're not good enough. You are good enough! From personal experience, some of my biggest regrets are not applying to certain schools or programs because I didn't think I could get in. The regret ended up being much worse than a rejection.
An unfortunate part of being a first-generation and/or minority student is that we're much more prone to suffer from Imposter Syndrome and minimize our capabilities and successes. I think it's important to remember that you earned all of your accomplishments because you're capable and worthy. Once I started to get into this mindset, I became much more confident in my abilities and expressing my opinions.