Student finds niche in communications department

Being a college student isn’t always an easy task, but are some students who go above and beyond to make their college years memorable. Jenna Valle-Riestra is in her third year as a Communication Studies major. In those three years she has been involved with many organizations on campus.

Sonoma State STAR:What are you involved with at Sonoma State?

JENNA Valle-Riestra: “I am the PR & Communications Coordinator for Career Services, peer mentor for a [Communications Freshman Living Community] section, account executive in Primitivo PR, president of Sonoma State Communications Coordination which is a student board I founded in the communications department, editor and writer and treasurer for Her Campus Magazine chapter at Sonoma State, executive council member in Phi Sigma Sigma, research assistant for Emily Acosta Lewis, teaching assistant for Nathan Murray, Sonoma State's LinkedIn Campus Editor, and next semester I'll be on the Model UN delegation.”

STAR:Which one do you enjoy doing the most and why?

Valle-Riestra: “It's really hard to say because I get something really unique and wonderful out of everything I do. I genuinely enjoy all of my involvement.”

STAR:Why did you choose to get involved with these specific activities?

Valle-Riestra: “Growing up I actually was never that person who did a lot at school. In high school I was really involved in my church, and that's how I got my fulfillment, but when I came to SSU I was really uninvolved and unmotivated my freshman year and really unhappy. So when I came back as a sophomore I really intentionally put myself out there and really just started saying yes to things that sounded cool. My involvement started within my academic department as well as my sorority, and it just grew from there as I started exploring different strengths and interests. I thrive off of a strong sense of community so a lot of what I have done has been driven by that desire to be a part of something greater than myself. The more I became passionate about these different areas, the more I wanted to give back.”

STAR:Is it difficult to keep up with your school work and your responsibilities? How do you manage it?

Valle-Riestra: “It's definitely not easy. There are days I get really overwhelmed, and I definitely don't sleep or exercise as much as I'd like to. But I'm really energized by and passionate about the things I do. Also through these activities, I've built a really strong community and support system full of amazing people who encourage me and keep me going. Being on campus, doing things I love with people who inspire me, makes any stress or exhaustion absolutely worth it. I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm also hyper-organized and write everything down - I can't leave the house without my massive color-coded planner. And I'm not completely packed, I spend a lot of time with friends and volunteering.”

STAR:What are you hoping to achieve with your involvements on campus?

Valle-Riestra: “I became involved because I wanted community, and I've definitely found that. Now I want to continue to give back to this community and really feel that by the time I reach graduation, I have made an impact on this campus and these people. I also hope to grow as a person through my involvement, and I definitely can see that happening. It's completely changed who I am and helped me mature in a lot of ways.”

STAR:How do you think these activities will benefit you with your career path?

Valle-Riestra: “Through these activities, I have developed a strong transferable skill set. I'm gaining experiences that are applicable to any career, and I've become really good at proving that what I'm doing now is relevant to what I want to do. Examples of transferable experiences include group facilitation and public speaking through peer mentoring and sorority, graphic design and PR campaign implementation through Career Services and Primitivo PR, and writing and editing through Her Campus and LinkedIn, just to name a few. It's also really great networking, because I'm constantly meeting new people and working with different groups, so I've expanded my network profoundly in a short amount of time.”

STAR:Do you hope to get involved with new things your senior year or cut back?

Valle-Riestra: “I know I want to keep up this level of involvement, but I'm not entirely sure what my senior year is going to look like yet. I'm lucky because I'm super ahead academically which gives me more time to focus on these extra things. I'm just going with the flow and seeing which open doors I want to pursue next, but I do foresee myself giving a little more intentional thought to my career path as I figure out what to prioritize next year.”

STAR: How would you define a student leader?

Valle-Riestra: “I think a student leader is someone who uses their skills and passions to help others. Leadership is relational - it's not about yourself, it's about those whom you impact. A student leader is authentic, inclusive, and consistently learning and growing. And I genuinely believe anyone can be a leader, whether they are loud or quiet, quirky or conservative, everyone has something unique and brilliant to show the world.”

STAR:What advice would you give to students who wanted to get involved on campus but didn’t know where to start?

Valle-Riestra: “Remember that college is about exploring your interests. Don't do something just because it will look good on a resume, that's how you get burned out. See a class or club that is completely unrelated to your current path but looks super cool? Go for it. Let your passions guide you, and you'll figure out where you're meant to be”.

Those who have worked alongside her are able to determine what a hard worker she is. “Working with Jenna has been absolutely amazing. She is a born group leader and she does an excellent job at delegating tasks to all members of the group. Jenna is the ultimate stand out student and I couldn’t feel more lucky to have been able to work alongside her,” said communications studies major Kelsey Taylor.

Professors on campus enjoy having such a reliable student in their classroom, and look forward to reading her work. “Jenna is a pleasure to have as a student. It's rare that you have a student who is so enthusiastic, capable, and well-rounded,” said Professor Emily Acosta-Lewis.