Episode 3: Partnership

Featured Guest

Eric Waldo

Executive Director for Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Intiative and Vice President for Access and Equity at Common App


Elisa Castillo

Former CAC adviser at USC and current CAC Program Coordinator at USC


Carla Veliz

Former CAC adviser at USC and current Academic Advisor at Biola University


Nicole Hurd: [00:00:00] welcome back to the knowledge for college podcast. I have a huge treat for you today. We’re going to spend two episodes with three of my favorite people. So, um, I’d love to introduce you to, first of all, Eric Waldo, uh,

He did some amazing work with mrs. Obama and reached higher. So we’ll talk about that. And then I’ve got two amazing, uh, former advisors. So now they’re officially CAC alums, uh, from USC. I have Lisa and Carla and they are going. I’m really excited about talking about this because I’m a big believer. We do nothing alone.

Uh, and for those of us that are feeling lonely because we’re in a pandemic and we’re zooming instead of see each other, I think partnerships and friendships and love and light are more important. And the last is to give some practical advice. And so you’re going to hear some things, both about partnerships and then in our next episodes about personal statements that we hope can become actionable in your own lives.

So again, thank you everybody for joining us and thank you to the three amazing partners on this, um, on this podcast. Let me start with Eric by embarrassing him first. So when I said I wanted to do an episode on partnerships, the first person that came into my mind is Eric. Uh, Eric, you wanna tell everybody how we met and what you’ve been doing for the last few years?


Eric Waldo: [00:01:18] So, Hey everybody again, as Nicole mentioned, first of all, it’s Nicole, thank you. Congratulate on launching your podcast. I’m really excited to be on it. Um, Nicole was actually when I first guests on our podcast on education swamp. We’re on hiatus right now. You’re way ahead of me. See, uh, on COVID-19.

But again, I’m Eric Waldo. I’m next. Wanna wear a couple hats? I, I am the executive director for former first lady. Michelle Obama’s reach higher initiative. Which is now based at the comment application, a 45 year old nonprofit membership organization that helps about a million students a year applied over 900 member colleges.

But Nicole, you and I got to meet, um, first back, I think in really 2014, when I moved over to the white house to actually start retirement, mrs. Obama. And at that point, president Obama and mrs. Obama hosted a college opportunity summit. In January of 2014 and we had gotten about 150 college presidents to make some commitments around what they were doing.

And also some nonprofits and we are working really hard to continue to build on that work. And college advising Corps had made some commitments during that summit that president Obama has held and we wanted to do even more together. And so I reached out to Nicole when you were just so generous with your time and expertise about.

Well, you thought college advising Corps could commit to you what you thought of the foundations would commit to, um, to help lift up the president’s goal that we get more young people, especially well income students, first generation students, students of color into and through a postsecondary credential.

Nicole Hurd: [00:02:43] Well, and so, uh, I’m gonna steal a line from, from somebody who I think everybody would agree as a hero. Uh, Eric’s one of my favorite people to get in good trouble with. So, uh, we, uh, to, to, to talk about Congressman Lewis for a second. And so Eric, you know, in your new role, when COBIT hit. Um, in March struck, uh, somebody who, like I said, likes to get in good trouble together.

We had a conversation about what, what we might do together. So you want to tell everybody about what we’ve been doing for the last couple of months I would

Eric Waldo: [00:03:11] love to. So, yeah, it’s a great story. You know, again, a story born out of crisis, like so many opportunities, I think. You know, COVID-19 hits and suddenly we’re all, what are we going to do to better support students where they are.

We know that all these students are at home. They’re not at school, even if they’re remote, you know, we’re worried, they’re not getting to their counselors. Um, you know, you don’t have your counselors sort of bothering you the hallway. What’s what is this going to mean for students in, in high school who are making decisions about where to go to college?

Yes, they should go to college. How are they going to find financial aid for college, et cetera. And so, you know, Jenny Ricard, the CEO of common, I’ve called me and said, you know, Eric, I know you guys are doing really interesting work over on the retire side of the house with one of your texting programs up next.

Gosh, could we do something like that? We start texting students. And so I began calling people. And so I, at first I called, um, Uh, drew Millie Apsey from admit hub and he said, Eric, we can help you. You text students with a chat bot, but you know, that’s not enough. We got to do more. That’s just going to be, you know, 24 hour support is great, but we need real life people.

And I said, well, gosh, I could call them Nicole Hurd. She’s worked with us before on another, the project. Maybe she wants to help. So then drew Nicole and I put our heads together. And now today, thanks to the generosity of capital one foundation. We’ve been texting with 170 3001st generation and low income students who had graduated with a class of 2021.

And all of them have been connected. To an artificial intelligence chat bot, all of them have been connected and invited to speak, to realized counselors just participate in Instagram chat and Instagram webinars. Um, and so now we know we sent over 20 million messages. Um, students responding like 60, the engagement rate is over 60%.

So over 60% of students continue to engage with the chat bot today. So they still have questions and. Uh, and, and again, you know, the amount of time we say the work we’ve done together, I’ve been possible without a college advising Corps in admit hub and comment has come together. And again, thanks to the capital one foundation we’ve been able to continue this work.

It’s very, very, very exciting.

Nicole Hurd: [00:05:12] It’s very exciting. And like I said, it’s the best kind of partnership because I love it when a friendship also, not only lets the two of you have light and love between yourselves, but it radiates out to other people. So, so grateful that Eric is in my life and in the college advising Corps life and so grateful to all the advisors that have stepped up and help with that.

That partnership one, a pivot to, to Elisa into Carla. Now this is another example of a powerful partnership I was talking to. So I’m program directors and said, does anybody have two absolutely fearless alumni? That would be great on the podcast. And this was the, by far, the most compelling, amazing group of amazing women that I’ve seen.

So can you to tell us a little bit about a. When you were at the USC Corp, what high school you were at, why you did this and then how you two became friends and what that friendship has meant in terms of impacting students and impacting each other.

Elisa Castillo: [00:06:04] Most definitely. I am very happy to share that. And first and foremost, I do want to say, thank you, Nicole, for this great opportunity.

And Eric, it’s really good meeting you. And I’m excited to be on this podcast with you all, but, um, where do I start? Um, Carla and I always go back and every time we get together, we’re always reminiscing about our time with the core. Uh, we started, uh, with the USC college advising Corps or in 2017, again, correct me if I’m wrong.

Carla, it’s been awhile. And for me, I’ve been fortunate to, I have completed my two years and I trust. Transitioned into the coordinator position. So now I, I’m still connected with USC and I’m a coordinator, a program coordinator with them. Um, and Carla went off to work at her Alma motto in Viola. So I’m sure she’ll explain a little bit more about what she does now, but, um, our friendship and our partnership at, um, so we were placed in the.

Uh, long beach school district is one of those, the districts that we oversee at within the USC college advising Corps and were placed at Lakewood high school. And so we had just gone through four weeks of our intense training that we usually do in the summer. Um, and so once. Usually we get placed midway through the summer.

And so we’re, you know, we’re meeting everybody and we’re getting to know everybody. And again, there’s about 40 plus advisors with the USC college advising Corps. And so, although we didn’t immediately connect in the beginning during summer training, it was something where it’s like, Oh, we’re colleagues.

You know, we work with each other. I, I occasionally would sit with you at lunch, but, um, our friendship didn’t really develop until our time at Lakewood. Um, And once that Lakewood, um, we learned very quickly that we were completely different. We have completely different work styles. Um, and that, that revelation came after, you know, a conflict that we had within the first three weeks of working together at our site.

And so. You know, we’re both first gen first generation students with the both first in our family to have graduated college. And you know, with us, our families, thank you. No, this is a real job. Um, this is a professional job, right? And so we’re excited, you know, we’re placed at our high school and we have our own ways of wanting to work with our students.

Cause. First, you know, we were passionate about the work that we’re doing. And so, you know, in our mind, at least in my mind, I’m like, Oh, she’s going to be like me. She’s going to be proactive and she’s going to want to go out and meet everybody. And, um, I’m an extrovert. Um, and so I, you know, one of the first things that I wanted to do when I got to my site was to go meet everybody.

Uh, we got there about two weeks or two days before, uh, students were going to be on campus. And so in my mind, I’m like, great. We’re going to go meet everybody. We’re just going to go pop our heads in people’s classrooms. We’re going to go shake hands. They’re going to say hi, we’re going to just say, we’re there to help with the students and just to, to collaborate and make partnerships.

And that was not something that Carla, that’s not how she wanted to initiate, um, our collaboration and connecting with people on campus. And so, um, that was a conflict there in terms of work style. And so she wanted to be a little bit more. More strategic and more planned and be like, okay, let’s figure out what the campus is like first.

And then we can go into to meeting people and meeting the right people in the, you know, in, in the appropriate times. So we’re not, you know, maybe walking in on a, on a conversation that we should not be in or things like that. It’d be a little bit more, more, um, more plants. And so that was a little, you know, in the beginning it was a little frustrating, cause I thought.

I was like, wow, here I am thinking that I’m going to be great with a partner. We’re going to, we’re going to vibe. Well, and from the beginning I was completely wrong. I’m like, wow, like this is going to be frustrating. Um, we, you know, we clashed a little bit, um, I’m a strong. Like person and I, I am very upfront and I tell, I tell you how it is and how I’m thinking.

I, that must be my areas in me, my fireside. And so I was frustrated and I was dreading. I’m like, I’m going to be with this person for the next two years. I’m like, what, how am I going to work? And I would go home and just be frustrated. Cause I’m like, I thought we were supposed to be partners and work together and this and that.

And so one day I decided I’m like, you know what? This, this can’t be right. This is not going to be good for our students. It’s not going to be good for the work that I was hired to do. And so. Um, we have our own offices at the time there. Um, and so I walked to her office and I, I stood in the doorway, so I didn’t even step in to her space and sit into the doorway.

And I told her, I was like, hi, Carla. Um, you know, I, if you’re, if you’re available, like I would like to talk to you about some things that I have on my mind. Um, and when I did that and she was like, yeah, cool, go ahead. And, you know, come on in. Um, so I went into her little office, um, you know, I closed the door and I, I told her I use I statements.

And so I said, hi, Carla, this is how I’ve been feeling. Um, and basically laid out all, everything that I was feeling on the table. And I asked, you know, I don’t know if you’re feeling the same way, but I definitely want to work together. And see how we can, you know, come to a consensus. So that way our working relationship can be a little bit better.

So that way we can work collectively and collaboratively with our students. Again, this is within the first three weeks of working and knowing that we’re going to be together. No, this is cannot be the way. And so after that, um, Carla was, was very open. Um, and that’s kind of a little bit of where our relationship.

Flourished and began.

Carla Veliz Logie: [00:12:12] Yeah. Yeah, no, definitely. I like to say that our friendship actually began out of, I’m just learning so much about each other and out of conflict, which is really ironic because we’re, it’s been a few years since we’ve been with the court and we’ll S we’re part of book clubs together.

We’ll meet up and hang out. Um, and yeah, was throughout our time at the core as well, but, but our friendship really grew out of, um, learning to see the best in each other, even in a hard circumstance. Um, and that was, um, something that we, I appreciate it from, from being a part of the core was just being, given an opportunity as first-generation graduates to have, um, A great professional experience that has like jumped, started our careers.

And that was one of the first experiences where we were learning so much about each other and how to, how to apply what we’re learning. Um, at the time with growth mindset and strength based perspective is like, how do we see the best in a student? Um, and help them see, um, that you can grow from this. And the same thing was going on as we were learning.

Um, how to interact at a school site for the first time when we, um, at least I had a different perspective and how I approach our school site and I had a different perspective there. And, um, I see that as the beginning of, of a great, um,

partnership and friendship, and

we realized our or similar goal and passion

for being able to meet

the thousand plus high school seniors at Lakewood high school.

And. 4,000 students overall at our high school, long beach unified schools are, are, are really big and we had a big task. Um, and if it weren’t for the beginning of a conflict and seeing, Oh, we’re actually for each other and we’re for our students succeeding and graduating and having great opportunities that it began a really great relationship.

And we got to do so much. At least

Nicole Hurd: [00:14:07] I love the story for so many reasons. Right. I love it because I think sometimes we think. If somebody is not like us, we can’t be friends with them. Right. Or partners with them. I think sometimes we think, um, if you’re not on my side, then you’re not on my side, but actually you are on my side.

We just are coming about this differently. Right. And I think there’s some wait times, especially in today, we live in such a divisive world in so many ways. And when you’re United by. A common goal, right? A common passion, a common mission. It becomes so incredibly powerful. Right? I think about the advisors is, you know, 800 plus very different individuals.

Right. But they’re on a common mission to make sure that we increase opportunity for thousands and thousands of students. And what I love is that you were back to P words, right? So partnerships partnerships also mean patients, right? And partnerships also mean passion. There’s lots of keywords in this, in this podcast today.

But, but my, my point being that I do think there’s times where, you know, we might make a snap judgment. We might think this is the way it is. And then whether we’re working with a student or we’re working with each other, The time it takes to really forge those alliances. And those partnerships are really important skills.

I think we all have to cultivate Eric. You had to create partnerships all over the place. I think about our partnership. I also think about, you know, like I said, the work you did in the, in the administration or the work you’re doing now. I mean, the other thing I want to say about partnerships is that they’re kind of like hallmark cards, if they’re bad, right?

Like there was a sense that like, they’re like, you know, Just all happiness and sunshine and flowers, but real partnership, like real love is a lot of work actually. So can you talk to us? What’s what’s you look for? What’s a good partnership. What are your kind of, what’s the, what’s the Eric Waldo rubric for a functional partnership.

Eric Waldo: [00:15:44] Yeah, it’s so interesting. And I appreciate everything, Carla, you started telling the story of your own, you know, coming together and then trying to find a way to have an honest conversation. Cause I think actually what you’re you’re talking about as individual partners is actually I would argue no different than when you’re.

Two organizations coming together, right? Like, do you have a shared mission? Yeah. The goal, same values. And can you honestly talk about those things in ways that doesn’t feel like you can, you know, you can put the mission ahead of whatever personal. Yeah, issues you may have. And if you’re putting the mission first and the outcomes first, then there’s pretty much, you know, so nothing’s going to get in your way.

So to me, that is the key, like mission goal, you know, and then sort of a shared sense of values and, you know, can we get the working together? And I’ll be honest. And, you know, Nicole knows this most of, you know, 99% of time, you’re able to find that integrated partner who has your shared values and your shared mission, and that’s going to be your North star and that’s going to take you most of the way there, but sometimes.

Your mission and outcome that you want to accomplish means you have to partner with people who maybe, right. It wouldn’t be your ideal partner. Um, so you wouldn’t necessarily pick and say, gosh, I really, this is who I want to work with, but what helps center me at those moments is realizing the bigger term mission and vision makes the goal was more students going to college, more students, you know, filling out the FAFSA, whatever it is, your goal for that day.

Um, students having a great signing day experience, students have a great virtual graduation experience. So students. Getting more money for college, you know, through the scholarship. Um, when you put that on the pedestal of the goals, then it helps you get through, you know, the personal challenges, sometime the organizational culture challenges.

So to me, I mean, when, when you want the perfect partner, it’s aligned mission, vision values, but w but even if some of those things are off, as long as you guys are all laser set on the same goals, you can still work through it.

Nicole Hurd: [00:17:37] I think that’s a great point. You’re coming in. We all are, are also works in progress, right?

There’s no such thing as a perfect partnership. There’s just high performing partnerships. Right. And if we start thinking perfection is the goal, we start tripping on ourselves pretty fast. So, um, Now you both have, have moved on. At least you’re still with us, which I’m so thrilled. You’re still part of the leadership team.

Um, at the core at USC, uh, Carla, you’re back at your Alma mater doing some, some exciting work. How would you guys see your time with the Corps? Or what would you say to advisors right now? We’re starting about how to do partnerships. Well, how to, how to think back about what would you want to know now? Um, if you were starting to help students this school year, especially with COVID in the virtual work.

W what would your advice

Carla Veliz Logie: [00:18:22] be? Yeah, I would say that my experience, I work at a university. I’m an academic advisor. So I work for like student success and retention team. Um, and I, I was able to see our work, um, in helping students. Find access to college. And when I came to the institution that I worked for, I saw, Oh, there is another set of challenges here of like, how do we help the same group of students now complete their degree?

Um, there’s so much work that came into the access, um, of having all the resources they needed to get in. Um, And I think similarly it, I would work and finding partners, partnerships all the time, um, in partnering with the departments that I work with to make sure that we’re giving the students, um, the right support, the right resources.

If they’re students with disabilities,

if there’s

a military affiliated. Students. So I’m all the time I’m working across departments on our campus, whether it’s virtual and online, the way it’s had to be in this season. Um, or if it’s been in person, I’m connecting with students, there’s always, um, students who have different needs.

And, um, I think my time at the Corps helped me realize I, I, my, my desire is to advocate for those students, whether they’re first generation students. Low income students, um, or have different needs that, um, that will require me partnering with the right department to get them what they need to, to be able to graduate.

And that comes with their own unique sets of needs. But that’s how it’s impacted me in, in

my work now.


Elisa Castillo: [00:19:55] for me now that I’ve transitioned into the coordinator position, um, with USC college advising Corps. It’s sustaining relationships, especially ones that I’ve done well upped with, um, folks that institutions.

So that way they can come back and train my advisors. So that way the advisors have the resources that they need and the information that they need. So that I can, again, trickle down to their students and so that the students have that right information. And so for me, I’ve kind of transitioned to the developing and sustaining relationships with people that I’ve met while, while my time as an advisor.

And so that’s specifically for an asking for them to come and train the advisors and making sure that I follow up with them and be available to them if they ever need me to come in and, and share information or, you know, Be on a, on a panel for them and speak about advising our, our, our, you know, our advisors and working for our students.

But I mean, ultimately at the end, um, what I tell my advisors, it’s, it’s really communication. Communication is key and, you know, developing and maintaining relationships, um, is going to make a good partnership. Um, and I think that’s really important.

Nicole Hurd: [00:21:10] Well, we’re already out of time. This always happens.

These podcasts go so fast, but yeah, I’ll say this. Um, you know, when I, when I reached out to all of you, first of all, it’s the sign of a good partnership you all said yes, because you do believe in each other and you do believe in this mission and you believe in this cause. But like I said, I really did want to do this.

Um, cause I think a lot of us are feeling alone right now. Right? I do think, um, the zoom thing is real. The isolation is real, and I know for the students that are starting to fill out applications or those advisors are starting to do their work, or like I said, any caring adult, that’s thinking about how to support a student right now.

They’re we need to know we’re not doing this alone. Right. That we have each other. And so I would just end by saying, you know, whether it’s reaching out to our organization or another organization, Reach out to a young person in your life that you know, is applying to college, um, reaching out to, to a friend or a family member that if we keep talking to each other, we’re going to get through this and hopefully we’ll get out of the other end a lot stronger and braver.

So, uh, one of the, thank the three of you, I’m going to hold you. So if everybody. Wait another week, we will, we will see these three back ag because we’re gonna talk about personal statements and telling stories, but, um, from the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for talking about partnerships, three of my favorite partners, uh, and, uh, thank you for sharing your love and your light.

Um, and thank you for being willing to hold hands and help students together. So, so much gratitude to the three of you. Uh, thank you all for watching and listening again, and we will see you next time. Uh, this is the knowledge for college podcast.