As an administrative associate, Catia Guerrero is akin to a stage manager — pointing people in the right direction, filling gaps and putting everything in its place.
“I’m behind the scenes, making sure our department is running smoothly,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero recently celebrated five years of smooth waters with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies, and she is among nearly 1,000 university employees being recognized Oct. 19 during the Celebration of Service.
From handling faculty course assignments and fellowship contracts to scheduling events and dealing with budgets, Guerrero said her tasks are varied and often unpredictable.
“I have my hands in so many different areas, every day is new and that’s really nice,” Guerrero said. “It takes a lot of problem-solving, and I like it.”
An immigrant from El Salvador, Guerrero said she is struck by the unlikely path that brought her to Lincoln and the university.
“Growing up in El Salvador, we lived in a very rural community, where having electricity was a luxury,” she said. “I remember getting electricity, and then our house was one of the first with a TV, so I never pictured myself working here.”
Guerrero moved to the United States in her 20s. She first lived in New York State for two years before arriving in Lincoln 26 years ago.
“This is home,” she said. “I love the town and the people and the university. It is diverse here. I’ve met so many students and people from other countries.”
Guerrero has worked with college students for a long time, and it’s the part of her job she loves most. Prior to working at Nebraska, Guerrero was a community volunteer coordinator for the Lincoln Children’s Museum, which meant working frequently with student volunteers. She cheered them on as they finished their course work and moved on to their chosen career path.
“I got to meet a lot of students and they would talk to me about their dreams, what they wanted to do,” she said. “I know students who became teachers or an attorney or a doctor. They’re helping their communities and raising their families.”
And Guerrero wanted to be part of that educational foundation, helping to build future leaders, so she set her sights on working for the university.
“It was, I guess they say, a dream for me, because it is an educational institution,” she said. ”I’ve met some students and you can see how education has formed them into leaders and that makes me really proud. These students are going to be the future of our country, and in my eyes, the future is looking great.”
Guerrero sees herself as student, too. She holds a bachelor’s degree in management, and said some day she may pursue her master’s degree. For now, she said she likes to take advantage of classes that pique her interest, including a study abroad trip to China in 2018.
“That was a great opportunity to learn about Chinese culture and families,” she said. “I was the first one in my family to ever go to China. I was supposed to go visit my mom in El Salvador the same month, and when I told her I was going to China, she thought that I was joking. ‘Oh, you’re kidding,’ she said, and I said ‘no, I’m not,’ and I had to send her pictures to say, ‘yes I really did go to China.’”
But every day offers her new opportunities to learn and expand her varied skill sets.
“I have actually learned a lot in my job — budgets and programs and policies,” Guerrero said. “And sometimes, people come to me with a question, and I say, ‘Ha, that is a good question. Let me try to figure out an answer,’ so the learning never ends.
“The university offers so many trainings and workshops, and I’ve learned so much from them, too,” she said. “I really encourage my staff to take advantage of everything the university and the college offer.”