About 18 years ago Rachel Dominguez was looking for a way to expand her understanding of the Cal Poly Pomona campus.
Dominguez had been working part-time at CPP, but when her position grew to full-time, she wanted to grow her knowledge of the university. She learned about the Cal Poly Pomona Staff Council and, after familiarizing herself with the group, knew her search had ended.
In August Dominguez stepped down as Staff Council president, a post she held for a total of eight years.
“I enjoyed what I did. It’s a rewarding job,” Dominguez said. “At some point people have to step down.”
Things must evolve, she added.
“Once in a while changing things up is a good thing,” Dominguez said.
Last year Dominguez determined it was time for her to retire and did so in November after 21 years as an administrative assistant with the Reading, Advising and Mentoring Program on campus.
Staff Council made it possible for Dominguez to gain a better understanding of Cal Poly Pomona and the people among its campus community but, as she has often told people when recruiting them for Staff Council, the group also offers networking opportunities and ways to make new friends.
“I have met the best people at Cal Poly Pomona through Staff Council,” she said.
Those who know Dominguez say she has nurtured and grown Staff Council.
“She’s done tremendous work to establish what Staff Council is now,” said April Jimenez-Valadez, current Staff Council vice president. “She’s really the backbone of the group.”
Among her key accomplishments are the bridges she’s helped build with departments and divisions, including the President’s Office, a strong relationship that has yielded ongoing financial support for the breakfast kicking off the annual Staff Appreciation Week and the luncheon that closes out the weeklong series of events, Jimenez-Valadez said. The relationships have also resulted in Staff Council receiving invitations to serve on committees and boards that have university-wide impact.
Dominguez has qualities that came through in her Staff Council work and leadership, her co-workers said.
She has a calm, thoughtful nature and a sense of humor but she’s not one to be intimidated when interacting with high level administrators, said Becky Pepping, a former university staff member who retired in 2017 and a past Staff Council president.
Dominguez is passionate about assisting others, growing new leaders, and finding creative ways to tackle problems. All of those came through during her tenure on Staff Council.
The idea to expand the Staff Appreciation event from one day to one week, Dominguez said, came about after she noticed some staff members were unable to attend functions because job responsibilities made it difficult to break away for a couple hours. Dominguez sought to grow the program and when she was given the green light, she turned the event into one that included speakers, workshops, and other activities.
A week of activities made it possible for people to catch one or more in the company of co-workers without affecting their job responsibilities, Dominguez said.
“It gives the staff a break from the everyday routine,” she said.
Although the focus of Staff Council’s attention is the university’s staff, Dominguez has encouraged the group to give back to the university and the Pomona community. The group has done so in different ways such as providing meals for students who create the Cal Poly Universities float entry for Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. One of the meals is served in Pasadena during the final days of float decoration when students and dedicated volunteers work long hours to ready the entry.
Other projects include a holiday toy drive in partnership with the Pomona Police Department’s annual Santa Cop program and supporting the university’s Poly Pantry which assists students who are struggling financially and may not have enough to eat.
Barbara Bean, CEO of the Cal Poly Federal Credit Union, and a past president of Staff Council, said Dominguez brought flexibility to the job of president, adapting to changing times. She also worked to prepare new leaders.
“What Rachel has done is she is able to delegate responsibility and hold (people) accountable,” Bean said. “She was allowing people to grow and mentoring them in leadership skills.”
For instance, Dominguez had a knack for coaxing individuals to speak before a large group, even if they were nervous or reluctant at first.
“She can motivate a real introverted person,” Pepping said.
Jimenez-Valadez added that her genuine care for others is what makes her an effective leader, whether it was advocating for a staff member’s professional growth or nurturing their personal endeavors.
“She’s so positive, so supportive,” Jimenez-Valadez said. “I see her like a mentor.”