Saundra Mitrovich, She/Her
Outreach and Retention Coordinator
The Center: Every Student. Every Story
Saundra Mitrovich was born in Paradise, California and raised in Oroville, California and is an enrolled member of the Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek, Rancheria as well as a descendant of the Yahmonee Maidu Tribe in Quincy, California.
Saundra’s professional interests include strengthening educational pipeline programs for communities, creating and strengthening community partnerships with higher education institutions, developing opportunities for students to participate in research and presentation, developing civic engagement opportunities, and participating in service learning projects. Her educational journey includes undergraduate degree in History and Ethnic Studies and graduate work in Native American Studies.
Professional Work Experience
- Educational Talent Search Program (Open Doors-TRIO), Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma
- Student Support Services Program (TRIO), Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma
- Tribal Civilian Community Corps, AmeriCorps, Nenana, Alaska
- AmeriCorps VISTA program, North Pole, Alaska
Notable Internships & Awards
- Smithsonian’s Artic Studies Center, Anchorage, Alaska
- McNair Scholar, Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma
- Nominated Change Maker, White House United Summit of Women, Washington, D.C.
- Nevada Native Youth Services Ambassador/Role Model of the Year
- Masters of Arts in Native American Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
- Bachelor of Arts in History/Ethnic Studies, Cameron University, Lawton/Ft. Sill, Oklahoma
What has been your proudest professional accomplishment?
My proudest professional accomplishment is working in the first position I held in higher education as a coordinator with a Talent Search program in Lawton, Oklahoma at Cameron University. It was my first professional position at a University and working with students and really talking to them about their journey to college.
I feel like that was a very proud moment because it made me realize what I really wanted to do and that I was capable of doing work in higher education.
If you could, who would you trade places with for a day?
Oh goodness, I thought about this question and I think I would most likely swap places with a kindergartner for the day, and the reason I thought about this is because I think about going back to arts and crafts, care-free time, and learning new things; the world just looks amazing through that lens and I would love to reconnect with that energy.
What is the best piece of advice that you have received from a mentor?
I truly believe mentors that you work with, and I’ve had some great mentors over time, they tend to start to see your personality and who you are and one of my mentor’s greatest pieces of advice to me is to find the balance in everything that you’re doing. I think that’s something I truly still try to work on.
“My mentor’s greatest pieces of advice to me is to find the balance in everything that you’re doing”
Tell us about an experience that required you to take a leap of faith.
I would say that one experience I took a huge leap of faith in, is when I met my husband in Alaska. When I met him I was at the end of the year of my AmeriCorps VISTA contract. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. Usually when you’re finished you go back home or you move on to another career. I met my husband, Sam, and he got re-stationed to Fort Sill, Oklahoma from North Pole, Alaska and he asked if I would take that journey with him. That was a huge leap of faith. Driving down though Canada across the country to Lawton Fort Sill, Oklahoma from the great Northwest and really trying to see if this would be my partner. He is my partner, my husband now, and we’ve been together 18 years and so it was definitely a huge leap of faith to leave a job, family, friends, and go to a place I’d never been to, but also to start a new journey with my future husband.
Tell us about a time of failure in your life. How did you overcome?
So thinking about times of failure, I think for me it would be when you apply for a position. You put yourself out there, you go through an interview process, and you hope that you’ll get the job. It was the first time I ever applied for a director position and it was for a Boys and Girls Club and it was in my early 20s. I knew that I didn’t necessarily have all the supervisory experience and there were some things that I knew I needed to gain some more exposure to, but I thought, I’m gonna try it out. That was challenging because it was my first failure, not getting a job that I really thought I would maybe like doing. But what I learned from that experience is how to look at job descriptions, challenge myself to gain new experience, and really make myself competitive for jobs in the future.
What is the coolest thing that you are working on right now?
The coolest thing I’m working on right now, which is really exciting for me, is the ‘I-RISE’ program here in the Intertribal Higher-ed Program (IHEP). It’s the Indigenous Research Institute for Student Empowerment program. It’s an opportunity to truly engage our American Indian and Alaska Native students and really strengthen their voice in higher education, but also strengthen their voice within their disciplines. For students that are going into medical school, law, or community health, whatever they may be going into, it’s about really challenging them to think about bringing their perspective from their community, their culture, into the research that’s currently being done and also finding ways to publish that information. It’s really just challenging our students and giving them the opportunity to participate in research, participate in conferences, and strengthening their voice.
“It’s an opportunity to truly engage our American Indian and Alaska Native students and really strengthen their voice in higher education”
If you were to start a company, what values would you found it on?
I would build it on loyalty, trust, and honesty. I also believe a company really should be thinking about the ethics and how they do business. Are you being intentional about putting the best product out there? What are you hoping to do with this product or with this service? Are you improving the life of the person that’s involved? Are you doing something that’s going to add real, true healthy value?
What is your favorite place in the world?
My favorite place in the world, hands down, is my grandmother’s home in Berry Creek, California. The best place about going to Berry Creek and growing up there is that there’s no Wi-Fi. You have to unplug and all you can do is spend time in the great outdoors, read, and just spend time with family. It’s beautiful, it smells wonderful and it’s just a place to go reconnect.
If you could tell one person thank you, who would it be?
If I could tell one person thank you, I believe that it would be my parents. My parents were always my biggest supporter, they were the ones who challenged me to do everything that I have set out to do now: go to school, get an education, travel, participate in sports, continue to push myself, never give up. That’s one thing that they always taught us as children is to never give up. They taught us a work ethic, if you want it then you have to work for it. I truly believe that’s a mentality I have every day, if I want something then I have to go after it. I can’t rely on somebody else to give it to me. I really appreciate the sound and strong work ethic that they have instilled in me and I believe that if I could give them the biggest thank you, it would be for that.
This interview is part of a series entitled Our Division. Our Stories. that seeks to highlight some of the outstanding members of the Division of Student Services at the University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, please contact the Student Services Personnel Committee.