The largest commencement in Cuyamaca College’s 36-year history had barely concluded and already Dr. Lauren Vaknin, associate dean of student affairs, was setting in motion plans for the 2015 graduation ceremony.
“It’s a year-long process,” said Vaknin, noting the logistics involved in ensuring a celebration with approximately 1,900 guests, nearly 250 participating graduates, dozens of volunteers and several VIPs, including keynote speaker Mae Brown, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Admissions and Enrollment at UC San Diego.
It is because of her dedication to detail – and her commitment to a job that includes oversight of student organizations, student government, student events and student discipline – that Vaknin has been named the latest recipient of the “Cuyamaca Way Award.” Vaknin is the 22nd recipient of the award, which honors staff, faculty members or students who best exemplify the values of Cuyamaca College.
“Lauren’s vision, leadership and dedication to students embodies the Cuyamaca Way,” said Cuyamaca College President Mark Zacovic. “Lauren continually goes above and beyond the call to assist our students in any way possible, and to organize programs and activities to help keep them engaged in college life. Each year she manages to organize a commencement ceremony and activities our graduates will not soon forget.”
Vaknin says working as associate dean of student affairs at Cuyamaca College is her dream job. A native of San Diego who grew up in Rancho Bernardo, Vaknin was set on her course while attending Pepperdine University in Malibu. She wanted to become a teacher, but that changed when she landed a job in the university’s student life office. Her roles included helping with homecoming, organizing parents’ weekends and working with advisors.
“I realized that his was an area that really appealed to me,” Vaknin said.
Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Pepperdine in hand, Vaknin set out for Santa Clara University to earn a master’s in educational administration with an emphasis in higher education. After a brief stint at Palomar College, Vaknin went to work at UC San Diego, first as a student organization advisor and student leadership coordinator, then as director of Associated Student Government. Meanwhile, she was earning a doctorate in education from San Diego State University in educational leadership, with a focus on community colleges.
She came to Cuyamaca College three years ago.
“Student affairs is a passion of mine,” Vaknin said. “I love what I do. This is a great campus and we have some fantastic student leaders.”