Skip to Content (Press Enter)

Alumna Steps In to Lead Student Affairs Areas of College Access, Career Pathways

Career Center Director Moves Up to Associate Vice President
Share This:

With 15 years of experience working in higher education, alumna Elizabeth Zavala-Acevez steps into the role of associate vice president for student affairs.

Since graduating from Cal State Fullerton in 2002 and landing a staff position in student affairs in 2006, Zavala-Acevez has continued to work toward helping college students succeed and finding the career of their dreams.

Zavala-Acevez became director of the Career Center in 2016, where she provided leadership and supervision to 41 staff members, and strategic direction to all facets of the department.

In her new position — a three-year appointment, effective July 1 until June 2023 — she is leading the areas of college access and career pathways in the Division of Student Affairs. These areas include admissions, financial aid, orientation, outreach and recruitment, as well as the Career Center, Center for Educational Partnerships and Center for Internships and Community Engagement.

“I am excited about this opportunity since it allows me to have a broader scope and reach as a student affairs professional. My No. 1 aspiration and goal has always been to be in a role that will allow me to make an impact on students,” Zavala-Acevez said. “I accomplished that goal when I came to CSUF 14 years ago as a career development specialist in the Career Center. All of the other opportunities I have acquired are far beyond what I ever imagined as a first-generation college student.”

As the first in her family to graduate from college, she paved the way for her two younger siblings — both CSUF graduates — and is looking forward to continuing to assist students get into college, graduate and find their career pathways.

“I know firsthand the impact that college access has not only for intellectual growth, but also for social mobility,” said Zavala-Acevez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from CSUF.

As a senior at Katella High School in Anaheim, with immigrant parents from Guanajuato, Mexico, Zavala-Acevez had no idea what college meant or how to navigate the higher education system. She was recruited to attend the university by CSUF’s Educational Talent Search program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education to help underrepresented students realize their college dreams. The program is under the Center for Educational Partnerships, which she now oversees.

“I am fortunate that this program was able to provide me the guidance that I needed to come to CSUF,” she said. “The quality of education I received, coupled with my experiential learning experiences, prepared me for graduate school and beyond.”

As an undergraduate, she commuted to campus, worked 30-plus hours a week and was on a mission to find not just a job after graduation, but a career.

“CSUF provided me the pathway to find my passion — and I found my calling in higher education. It is here where I realized that I wanted to provide that pathway for others with similar experiences as myself. My dream career as an undergraduate was to one day return to CSUF as a professional to help pave the way for other students.”

After earning a master’s degree in counseling, with an emphasis in higher education, from the University of La Verne, Zavala-Acevez landed the position of career development specialist. Over the years, she earned promotions to assistant director of career development, associate director, and then director of the Career Center. She also has helped lead campus initiatives to support student success, career readiness, fundraising, professional development and diversity.

She is actively involved in professional career development organizations, including serving as president-elect of the Mountain Pacific Association of Colleges and Employers and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). For her work as a career services professional, she received the 2015 NASPA Region VI Mid-Level Student Affairs Award.

Zavala-Acevez earned a doctorate in education, studying higher education and student affairs administration, from Claremont Graduate University in 2014.

Contact: Debra Cano Ramos,