Valentina Ahedo Profile 


Photo Provided to the Clarion

Valentina Ahedo (In red) poses with the administration staff of the Goodman South Campus.

Chris Bird, Managing Editor

Madison College’s Valentina “Tina” Ahedo, the Dean of Students for the Goodman South Campus, has been honored by Madison 365’s as one of “The 39 Most Influential Latinos In Wisconsin.” 

 Ahedo was recognized because of her involvement and leadership in the opening and operation of Goodman South Campus as the Dean of Students, which “represented a major shift to focus on education and economic development for the South Side of Madison, especially for the communities of color concentrated there. 

This has not been the first time that she has been acknowledged. In Sept. of last year, Ahedo received the Roberto Garzo Sanchez award from Centro Hispano for advancing education and career opportunities for Latinos. Also a receiver of the Athena Young Professional Award from Madison’s Business Forum for her work at Madison College as a Program Coordinator, contributing to the college receiving an equity award, along with her own personal volunteer work.  

Ahedo’s inclusion on this list is the latest milestone in a long journey of service. 

Her career in education and the start of her climb to the position of Dean, began at the University of WisconsinMadison 

I was at the School of Social Work and I loved it. I worked with doctoral students, Ahedo shared. Though happy with her work, she found that something was missing. 

Born to a family of immigrants from Mexico, she had been able to learn to speak and write English completely through her daily life and education, but was only able to learn to speak the Spanish language growing up. “I couldn’t read and write it, so I was only partially fluent, partially literate in Spanish.” 

“That was always something that I wanted to strive for, to become fully literate in both languages. Because, the times that we did get to see my family, my extended family, we would travel to see them. I never really felt like I belonged there because of the language piece, and the cultural piece was different.” 

Ahedo worked hard through high school and college to become fully able to read and write Spanish. She was happy to be involved in education and help students, but she found that she wasn’t using her Spanish frequently enough to keep the skills she had worked to gain. As time went on she felt her ability to speak, read and write Spanish fading away. 

“I didn’t understand how much it mattered to me until I wasn’t able to use it every day and kind of live in that experience every day.” 

“When the opportunity came up for the work at Madison College, what attracted me, quite frankly, was the position required Spanish literacy, Spanish fluency, because it did a lot of outreach work with the community and program development for the community. And I thought, ‘oh my gosh, fantastic!’ You know, I’ve got the education piece, I’ve got the background, I’ve worked in higher ed and now I can use this other piece of something that was really important to who I was… It was this drawing to this ability to use my language and connect to my community.” 

Ahedo recalled going for the position at Madison College with some excitement. So, I applied, and they hired me! I beat out the competition, they hired me and it ended up being one of the best things that I ever did.” 

“Having that language piece and that connection to the community be an anchor for me, it was just really important. It was a turning point for meMy ability to bring my whole self to the college has really helped create this as a space, where I feel like it is, you know, a home for me. And Madison, by extension.”  

“When I first started in the College it was downtown, it was a long time ago and I started in what’s called our Enrollment and Information Center office which was the equivalent to our Enrollment CenterWhat I loved about it is that it really gave me an opportunity to learn about the college.” 

The job that Ahedo was hired for was at the Downtown Campus, working in their Enrollment and Information Center office. The current day equivalent of this role in Madison College is now simply called the Enrollment Center. Ahedo didn’t work in Enrollment and Information long, before moving on to more positions at Madison College, but she considered it a formative first step in her career there. 

“We have all of these advisory councils that meet with employers to drive curriculum. We have got phenomenal students doing fantastic things… I was just in awe. And that position just really allowed me to learn, just broadly, what the college offers, so I’m really grateful for that. I think in many ways it’s made me a better leader, being able to build those relationships and understand how the College works and knowing where to turn to for resources.” 

“You know, in your job and in your work, knowing where you can go for help or to help get something done, it really allows you to shine and do your work so much better.” 

Ahedo continued to shine at Madison College, rising to positions such as Program Coordinator, and Dean of the Metro Campuses. I had been responsible for several of our metro campuses. What we call metro campuses, everything that is not Truax. So, I had our Downtown Campus, I had our South Campus at that time, when we had what I call an access point… and then I was also responsible for our West Campus.” 

As Goodman South was being planned and brought to life, other Madison College Campuses were going through transitions. The West Campus has become more focused on professional development and becoming involved in the business community, while the South and Downtown Campuses have now closed. The services that these campuses offered in the past have now shifted to be focused into one place, the new Goodman South location. With her previous experience as Dean of the Metro Campuses, she was an ideal choice to take a lead position as Dean of Students. 

Ahedo was confident in sayingThe thing I’m most proud of, of course, is the fact that we were able to open up a Goodman South Campus. There were so many people that were involved in making this a reality from the top down.” 

“I’m responsible for a group of people and the work that they do to drive our mission, to serve students and in the community. I think that that’s where that is really reflected, in what your values are and what the mission of the College is. That combination, to provide a foundation, then for others to do their best, and to be committed, and to have a voice. It just, it matters. It matters.” 

Ahedo understands, firsthand, that there are students at the College and people in the Madison community who may feel the same sense of floating that she has before. Whether they find themselves separated from family, are in a new unfamiliar place, or maybe are seeking a sense of direction and belonging. 

“I think we’ve got the opportunity to be a real game changer, to really change the trajectory of people’s lives in coming and benefitting from what we offer… If those who have less are doing better, then that just impacts everyone else up the chain.” 

The South Campus is about more than just those opportunities to Ahedo, it is meant to be a place where those in the community can feel welcome and accepted. Ahedo and the others who planned out Goodman South Campus made a point to include artwork and pieces acknowledging underrepresented groups in the area 

“When you walk in this building you will see that artwork, you will see groups that have come together from each of the four historically underrepresented groups. So, you’ve got the African American Community, the Hmong community, the Native American community, this was their land we have a land acknowledgement plaque that states that, and then the Latino, the Hispanic community. So seeing that, seeing yourself reflected in that space I think goes a long way to helping you find that sense of belonging. That just really matters. It matters to being successful in college, and then getting you set to launch into the working world.” 

Recalling the guidance and support that she received from Maria Bañuelos, the woman who first hired her at the college and provided her with the tools to succeed, Ahedo reflected on her accomplishments.  

“When I think about this award and this being named and recognized as the 39 most influential Latinos in Wisconsin, I kind of chuckled because I never really considered myself that, but I also realized, I realized that if I am that, it is because of the mentorship and the guidance and the confidence that not just she had in me, but that all of my other leaders have along the way.” 

“You just take a step back and look at the bigger picture and gosh, you know, you’ve got this small piece, but that small piece really matters because it’s this ripple effect. What you do here, that’s going to spread out.”