In a career that includes professional baseball player and Alaska commercial salmon fisherman, Miguel Inzunza found his true calling in helping students get a college education.
“I love removing barriers for students and helping them navigate the intricacies of higher education so they have more career opportunities,” said Inzunza, whose original plan was to coach baseball. “During a recruiting internship while finishing up my degree, the coaching dream just disappeared.”
That was over two decades ago, and now Inzunza is the new director for student recruitment and retention in WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.
“We are incredibly excited for Miguel to join our team and help bring more students into CAHNRS,” said Nancy Deringer, the college’s interim associate dean for student success and academic programs. “His years of experience and ability to help both students and parents navigate into —and graduate from—WSU will provide a valuable service for the college.”
Initially, Inzunza plans to meet with each CAHNRS department to learn more about what they do and what their recruiting needs are. He will also work closely with the CAHNRS Student Ambassadors program and expand it to reach more high school and community college students.
“Students are our best recruiters,” Inzunza said. “They talk about their experiences and goals, and high school students relate to them because they’re only a few years older.”
Inzunza is also excited to collaborate with Junior Gomez, the new CAHNRS coordinator for recruitment and retention.
“I’m looking forward to working with him as a partner and elevating both enrollment and the quality of students that come to CAHNRS,” he said.
Gomez is based in central Washington, while Inzunza works from the WSU Pullman campus. That means the team can cover a wide geographic area and talk to more students.
Though Inzunza quickly realized his love for working with students and making sure they earn a college degree, he understood his skillset needed to improve.
“I knew from my internship that I loved doing this work, but I also knew I wasn’t very good,” Inzunza said. “I didn’t understand how the high schools worked and I struggled to get in front of students, so I laid out a plan to get better.”
That initial internship and introduction to recruiting took place at Lewis-Clark State College, where Inzunza completed his bachelor’s degree after several years spent playing minor league baseball all around the U.S.
The former shortstop/second baseman/jack-of-all-trades retired from the sport to return to LC State as a part-time assistant baseball coach and student. Once he discovered recruiting, the first step in his plan meant high school teaching experience to learn firsthand how schools work.
Inzunza moved to Sand Point, Ala., a small town in the Aleutian Islands with a 2020 population of 578, where he taught science to middle and high schoolers. He worked on fishing boats in the summer.
“Fishing was an amazing experience, and it was meaningful working on those boats alongside my students and their families,” Inzunza said.
After a few years teaching, he returned to Lewis-Clark as a recruiter, working with Native and other minority populations.
“I’m a first-generation college graduate,” said Inzunza, who grew up in Los Angeles and attended LC State to play baseball. “My parents worked incredibly hard for my brother, sister, and me to go to college. Helping other families learn how their children can go to college is what it’s all about. I feel like I’m paying forward the work my parents did.”
Inzunza spent several years working at LC State before coming to the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine. He has also worked in the financial aid department at Walla Walla Community College.
All along the way he has interacted with different populations, helping them learn about a variety of academic programs. Most recently, he was a recruiter in the WSU Carson College of Business before landing in his new role with CAHNRS.
“I’m really drawn to science and STEM fields,” Inzunza said. “That’s what drew me to CAHNRS, in addition to the incredibly diverse career opportunities for students and the dedication the college has to WSU’s land-grant mission.”