As the first person in his family to go to college, Arthur Valdez is well aware of the unique challenges that come with the territory.
“When I came to Colorado State University, I was intimidated,” Valdez said. “I was trying to fit in and adapt to an environment that is very different from the one I grew up in.”
Valdez was able to turn those early challenges into a successful career. He’s currently the chief supply chain and logistics officer for Target and has previously worked for Walmart and Amazon.
Now, he’s using what he’s learned to become the mentor he wished he had through a scholarship that aims to support future first-generation College of Business students through all four years at CSU.
“Student access, support and success are core goals at the College, and we are extremely fortunate to have Arthur as an active supporter,” Dean Beth Walker said. “His focus on first-generation students enables us to better support them, and his scholarship fund goes above and beyond to ensure students have access to the education they deserve.”
Learning logistics at a young age
Valdez’s mom taught him that it’s possible to overcome any challenge.
In 1962, when she was just 11 years old, she defected from Cuba with her two sisters and 14,000 other unaccompanied minors and came to the U.S. without knowing a word of English.
They were whisked off to the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Pueblo, Colorado. That’s the community where she was able to start a family and build a successful pharmaceutical delivery business with her husband. Valdez helped with the family business from a young age.
“When I grew up, I was getting out of my kindergarten classes and then getting in the car with my grandmother and making deliveries,” Valdez said. “I knew the avenues and streets of Pueblo like no other.”
He was accepted at CSU and started pursuing a degree in business operations management (which is now the supply chain management program) in 1989. He took a job on campus with CSU Conference Services, which helped foster his future career.
“I was part of the setup: If a professor needed something printed out for a test, I would handle and deliver it,” Valdez said. “My entire life has been picking up and delivering things to somebody, and that was my role on campus as well.”
Valdez said his first resume was written on a typewriter and “horribly” formatted, and that he was intimidated by interviews in corporate offices. He was able to meet with a Walmart recruiter on campus, and this ultimately led to his very first job.
“We hit it off during the on-campus interview, and then he invited me to come to the Walmart distribution center,” Valdez said. “When I walked in and saw the cardboard and the forklifts, I knew this was where I needed to be, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.”
Mentoring future generations
Valdez said when he first came to the CSU campus, he was a little lost, but he was able to find his place and succeed. He wants to help other first-generation students do the same thing.
Through the scholarship, he said he’ll be available to talk to students about how to successfully interview for jobs, how to build a strong resume, and how not to be intimidated to reach out to potential mentors in whatever path they pursue.
“It is intimidating, but you have to be willing to try,” Valdez said. “I get messages on LinkedIn all the time from students at different colleges and universities asking for advice, and I often try to connect them with people who can help.
“I share that story because people truly do want to give back and provide support for people early in their careers, and share the lessons they’ve learned.”
It’s something Valdez has often done at CSU, be it through dinners for first-generation students or by judging case studies on campus. He also is currently a member of the College of Business Global Leadership Council.
“My advice to any first-generation college student is to persevere,” he said. “There will be hard moments, but you will get through it. Build connections, find mentors who support and listen, follow your dreams and keep working hard.”
About CSU’s College of Business
As an AACSB-accredited business school, the College is among the top five percent of business colleges worldwide, providing programs and career support services to more than 2,500 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Faculty help students across our top-ranked on-campus and online programs develop the knowledge, skills and values to navigate a rapidly evolving business world and address global challenges with sustainable business solutions. Our students are known for their creativity, work ethic and resilience—resulting in an undergraduate job offer and placement rate of over 90% within 90 days of graduation.
The College’s highly ranked programs include its Online MBA, which has been ranked the No. 1 program in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for five years running and Report and achieved No. 16 for employability worldwide from QS Quacquarelli Symonds. The College’s Impact MBA is also ranked by Corporate Knights as a Top 20 “Better World MBA” worldwide.