These graduates love GCU and can't leave it

Josh Hauser was an assistant athletic director at GCU by age 23.

EDITOR'S NOTEThis story is reprinted from the August issue of GCU Magazine. To read the digital version of the magazine, click here.

Photos by Ralph Freso

They came to Grand Canyon University as wide-eyed undergraduate students and found they couldn’t leave it behind. These undergrads-to-employees say a lot about the growth of GCU and why they stayed or returned after their graduation years:

COE associate professor Dr. Brandon Juarez is a 2007 GCU graduate.

2007: When Dr. Brandon Juarez returned to GCU in 2012 after a stint in secondary education, he was astounded.

“This University had fresh legs,” said the associate professor in the College of Education. “To add to it was exciting.”

Juarez started in online instruction and joined the ground faculty in 2015 – a transition that was the subject of his doctoral dissertation at GCU, where innovation is encouraged, he said. “We are always given the green light.”

“I get a chance to be in my former classroom. I get a chance to show students what it’s like to be a teacher and model those practices,” he said. “I am a first-generation student. I remember how it felt, so I can connect with them because I was one of them.”

2016: After graduating, Josh Hauser stayed on to work in sports information because he saw the support for athletics by the administration and student body, unlike any place he’d ever seen. He quickly rose to assistant athletic director by age 23, an eye-opening age for a Division I program. He attributes that opportunity to administrators who “look beyond the surface.”

His team of eight wrangles all the information for the website, videos and social media for 21 sports. It’s never slow work to stay on top of the info-drenched world of sports, but he stayed at GCU to jump on a fast-moving horse.

“You want to see where this place ends up,” he said of staying to work at GCU. “It’s growing so fast you don’t want to just jump off the ride.”

GCBC General Manager Lauren Lentini.

2016: Lauren Lentini is another example of GCU’s belief in its graduates. Soon after Commencement, she was part of a team of four charged with creating a new coffee shop on campus. GCBC became a place that also says a lot about what keeps graduates here.

“Our biggest thing was what we all know and love here – community. So we made this to be a place to find that community, as opposed to being just another food concept,” said Lentini, named general manager in 2020. “The community is what draws you and keeps you here.”

She met longtime friends here, many who also stayed to work in the box office, marketing or, like fiancé Anthony Anaya, in Student Affairs. GCU has reason to believe in these grads. Lentini has overseen GCBC’s growth to 200 student workers, four campus locations and the creation of its signature innovation, a Stampede drink that makes up half of beverage sales.

“You want to surround yourself with people who are like-minded and support you,” she said, “and you find that here.”

Daisy Ontiveros works for GCU as a credentialing specialist.

2018: Daisy Ontiveros' goal as a student was simple: Find a job at the university she once lived across from as a little girl. She studied hard and became a student worker quickly noticed for jumping in with her bilingual skills wherever help was needed in the College of Education.

Even before graduation, she was recommended for a job in the Office of Academic Affairs, where today she is a credentialing specialist who helps students with licensing requirements in many states.

“GCU values hard work and rewards their employees,” she said. “They trusted me, and that gave me confidence in my work.”

Director of Alumni Relations Noah Wolfe

2019: Few know more about why GCU graduates stay than Noah Wolfe, Alumni Relations Director, and he says it’s because they believe in the mission.

“They have experienced what is possible when a community with Christian values comes together to make the world a better place,” he said.

Coming from a low-income community and not knowing if he could afford to go to college, he found advocates at GCU.

“I realized that was what GCU was all about – advocating for equal opportunity for all socioeconomic classes of Americans. That really spoke to me,” he said.

Maria Santana Leon is an academic advisor at GCU.

2021: They keep coming.

“Honestly, there are so many students who want to work at GCU,” said Maria Santana Leon, an Academic and Career Excellence advisor who started as a student worker in the department and, like so many others, got a job within days of walking the Commencement stage.

The Students Inspiring Students scholarship recipient wants to help others take the next step toward a career. She’s been in their shoes.

“Even though all our stories are different, we have a lot of similar experiences. So to be able to support someone and say, ‘I know what you are going through,’ can bring a lot of comfort, a lot of trust,” she said.

These alums stay because they have been given comfort and trust.

Now they give it to others.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/