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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA multicultural coordinator retires from 34 years of alumni club work

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Jordin O’Connor
Jordin O’Connor / Arizona Daily Wildcat Oscar Lujan

After working for the UA for 34 years, Oscar Lujan, program coordinator for multicultural alumni groups, has decided to retire and start a new chapter of his life.

Lujan began his career at the UA as a mail handler in 1979 when he was 24 years old. After “bombing” his second year of college, Lujan said he wanted to work at the university first and then continue to pursue his degree.

Networking, Lujan said, helped him succeed, and is a skill he tries to teach the many students he has worked with.

“I wouldn’t know what networking was but I was doing it,” he said.

As a mail handler, Lujan said he became a liaison between many university departments, a theme he carried over into his job as a coordinator and mentor for the multicultural alumni associations. Lujan helped students connect with alumni in the professional world to ensure that they were successful in their career.

Lujan went back to school in 1990, taking 3 to 6 credits at a time until he graduated in 2009. Lujan said he wanted to really understand the material, not just get his degree.
“I wanted to learn,” Lujan said. “I’m a lifelong learner.”

His mail clerk shifts were from 4 a.m. to noon, Lujan said, and he wanted to volunteer his free time after work to students. When Lujan heard that the Alumni Association needed mentors for their UA Hispanic Alumni club, Lujan applied and became a mentor in 2000.

As a mentor, Lujan began to read students’ applications and personal essays for the club’s scholarship program, which strengthened Lujan’s desire to help students financially and with mentoring.

“Everybody has difficulty and everybody needs support,” he said. “I think the greatest that a student can get is knowing that there’s somebody there that they could talk to and identify with their situation. You kind of want to answer the questions that they don’t want to ask.”

After being hired to work with Hispanic scholarship recipients, Lujan realized that the other three multicultural clubs also needed help and direction, he said. Lujan worked with the UA Black Alumni Club, American Indian Alumni Club and the Asian American Faculty, Staff and Alumni Association, helping them plan events and connecting all four groups through monthly meetings.

“He goes above and beyond for not just the clubs he works with, but also the students,” said Nicholas Wilson, senior program coordinator for scholarship stewardship and a member of the American Indian Alumni Club.

Lujan knew and helped students on a personal level, said Jose Vargas, a psychology senior and a Hispanic scholarship recipient. Lujan already knew Vargas’ name when they met, Vargas said.

“Oscar has a great memory,” he added. “He remembers our passion, our interest, whatever we’re focused in, whatever we’re going through at that moment … He has a special way of connecting with students at a personal level.”

Lujan’s family-oriented lifestyle reflects in the way he works with students, according to Vargas, who said Lujan often emphasized the importance of family values to students.

“He’s always reminding us how special and how important our families are,” Vargas said.

While Lujan’s job was to help the multicultural clubs plan events and be a mentor to students in the Hispanic scholarship program, he also went out of his way to help students with personal problems, Vargas said. Lujan focused on ensuring that students’ scholarships are renewable throughout their college career, including students who are fifth year seniors.

“We want to keep those students and renew their scholarships,” Lujan said.

Since announcing his retirement plans, Lujan said he’s received more than 50 emails from students thanking him for his work at the UA.

“He has provided me the greatest resources, the opportunities … I’m in deep gratitude with him,” Vargas said. “He will be sorely missed by all the students.”

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