Featured Colleague: Christopher Alvarez’s Career Journey from Forensic Anthropology to Student AdvisingShare
Pictured above, Christopher Alvarez stands next to the Peace Pole at Lake Nona Campus. The pole was created by Lake Nona Campus Student Development and the campus’ Gay-Straight Alliance. Both employees and students contributed to the artwork, and it was installed in memory of those who perished at Pulse.”It serves as a reminder to be peaceful to one another,” Christopher said.
By Dani Moritz-Long
Student Services Advisor Christopher Alvarez has always been fascinated with people. His focus, however, hasn’t exclusively centered on those of the living variety.
Actually, while at the University of Central Florida, Christopher studied anthropology and took a special interest in forensic anthropology and crime scene investigation — meaning the subjects of most of his work and studies were deceased, and identifying remains, assessing decomposition and determining cause of death were daily activities on his to-do list.
But, Christopher explained, forensic anthropology and advising Valencia students isn’t as different as you might think.
“There’s cross-pollination,” he said, citing the investigative nature of both roles and a focus on diverse interactions.
“I still get to work with people from all over the world, and I don’t even have to go anywhere,” he said. “And, each person I come across here is a whole new case. I have to deduce what they need and what information they’re missing. It’s always an investigation.”
Still, you might be wondering what led Christopher — who can label teeth while blindfolded and operate a ground-penetrating radar system — to change careers.
“People,” Christopher said, is the simple answer.
“I wanted to work with people who are alive after a while,” he laughed. “Plus, it’s nice to make a difference in people’s lives.”
He joined Valencia in 2012, where he began at West Campus as an international admissions specialist. He then made his way to Osceola Campus as a student services advisor before transferring to Lake Nona Campus, where he’s based today.
Now a student services advisor and, for many students, one of the first points of contact, Christopher embraces his people-oriented position.
“One of the most important things is to have a smile on your face,” he said. The rest, he added, is about striving for accuracy, soaking up information and doing what you have to do to serve Valencia students.
“The students are the best part of working at Valencia as they brighten my day even on my worst days,” Christopher explained. “Valencia truly allows me to be the best version of myself and allows me to use my strengths to enlighten others. I really enjoy the encouraging atmosphere and the support I get from my supervisors and peers.”
This inspiring workplace environment and Christopher’s passion for serving others has also led him to lead three campus Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs (and founding two of the three) — something Christopher considers a personal and professional accomplishment.
As the current advisor for the Lake Nona club, Christopher enjoys facilitating an array of activities from documentary viewings to speeches from transitioned people and police officers who were present during the Pulse tragedy.
While Christopher wasn’t comfortable joining a GSA during his college experience as he wasn’t publicly open about his sexuality, he’s now passionate about ensuring others feel comfortable in their own skin.
“I am proud of being the club advisor for the GSA for most of my time here at Valencia at three different campuses,” he said. “Having a safe zone to be oneself is such an important necessity, and I am happy to harbor good vibes. I see a need for showing other people that there are others like them who are successful. Students need that support to know it’s OK and to not be afraid of anyone, including themselves.”
Appreciative of Christopher’s work and his commitment to our students, Lake Nona Director of Student Services Mindy Mozena said, “The positive energy that Chris brings to work each day is evident in his interactions with staff and students. He always goes above and beyond to assist our students and is an integral part of the Lake Nona Campus. I feel lucky to have him on our team!”
Outside of work, you can find Christopher enjoying life through an eclectic array of activities. He lifts weights, plays video games like Diablo and Fall Out, attends electronic house music festivals, travels (and loves to cruise), satisfies his inner-foodie and spends time with his interestingly named canine companions, Maximus Prime the Yorkie and Peanut Buddy the Chihuahua.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.