Mayra Llamas

EdD '17

While others were exploring past civilizations or asking questions in a laboratory, Mayra Llamas (EdD ’17) spent her undergraduate days thinking about her peers and how to create a university that served their needs. “I started college at California State University, Monterey Bay one year after it opened and I was a tour guide and student assistant at the Student Information Center,” said Llamas. “I spent a lot of time thinking about recruitment and how to tailor a tour experience to certain groups with different goals in mind. I realized that how a university provides information to students and connects them with available resources is essential.”

Today, Llamas is still thinking about what it means to recruit and retain students. She’s been a staff member at UC Davis for more than 12 years, and she was recently appointed Executive Director of Community Resource and Retention Centers. Llamas previously served as operations director of the student-run, student-initiated Student Recruitment and Retention Center. “I’m not just doing this work because I love it but because I often see myself reflected in students,” she said. “I was a first-generation Mexican-American student from a low-income background, and I had some negative experiences with the college recruitment process when I was in high school. I never want that to happen again. It’s important to me that prospective and current students see their value and that our campus provides them with the support they need to thrive.”

Llamas decided to earn her doctorate in educational leadership as a way to advance her thinking when it comes to student support. “I think of my EdD as a leverage point,” she said. “A doctorate in educational leadership gets you validation from colleagues and makes you stand out above just being an exceptional employee, but it is first and foremost about learning. The CANDEL program helped me become a better leader and allowed me to conduct high-quality research directly related to the projects I oversee. My EdD has given me the tools I need to give back to my community in an even richer way.”

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