Michelle Batista ’02, MA ’05, Takes “Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve” to the Next Level

Saint Mary’s alumna Michelle Batista ’02, MA ’05, joined Lake Tahoe Community College this summer as the new Vice President of Student Services (VPSS), where she oversees the Student Services division that offers an overarching, multi-pronged set of services and support throughout a student’s college experience; and serves as a gateway to the college, providing a safety net and transition to college completion. Batista brings years of experience in education and a deep commitment to the Lasallian tradition to her new role. 

“While I may not work at a Lasallian institution, I am still a Lasallian educator. I always thought ‘Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve’ was a starting point and the ending point, but it is very much cyclical. I entered to learn at Saint Mary’s, I left to serve, and as an educational leader, it’s my responsibility to continue learning how to best serve the needs of students who are also always changing. I joined Lake Tahoe Community College as a new VPSS excited to learn from students and my new colleagues. I’m really looking forward to building community and accompanying students on their educational journey,” shared Batista. 

“It’s really important to maintain ‘Enter to Learn’ within our hearts and our minds because that is how we ‘every day in every way, get better and better’ as Hermano Camilo [Brother Camillus Chavez] would say! That is one of the mantras he taught us in his meditation classes at Saint Mary’s. I continue to connect with him and join his practice online and in person to this day.” 

After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, Batista began her career in higher education at SMC in Residence Life and served as a resident director for two years in Syufy, while earning her Master of Arts in School Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential.  

In her recent position as director of Student Support at Skyline College in San Bruno, Batista oversaw the Health & Wellness Services and worked with faculty and classified staff to support students in distress and connect them to resources. Prior to that, she served as the director of Student and Family Services at De Marillac Academy (DMA) for 13 years, a tuition-free, Lasallian, Vincentian school in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. 

As a first-generation Latina college graduate, Batista credits her success at Saint Mary’s to mentors that she identified with. “Having professors like Brother Camilo Chavez for Chicano Psychology in Jan Term and Profe Álvaro Ramírez definitely served as a huge support to me throughout my time at SMC. Profe encouraged me to study abroad, which easily was one of the highlights of my undergraduate career that I never would have tried without him,” said Batista. “The presence and involvement of professors outside of the classroom also served an essential role, like Professor Myrna Santiago in her support of the Latinas on campus as we started Hermanas Unidas.” 

Batista also thanked Brother Michael Avila for her life-changing experience in the Christian Service Internship Jan Term, now called Lasallian Service Internship. She was placed at DMA when it first opened and fell in love with the school. As she left at the end of Jan Term, she said she would be back once she earned her master’s in Counseling. “Little did I know that it would manifest into reality and I would return to the Tenderloin three years later to serve at this little Lasallian school that served a majority of Latinx students.”   

Similarly, Batista said she was drawn to Lake Tahoe Community College to mentor other first-generation Latinx students. “Thirty-six percent of their population in Lake Tahoe—which many people might not know—is Latinx, and here at the college, a growing population of theirs, which is the Latinx population, is at 31 percent. I’m honored and humbled that I can serve in this way, supporting students and our community in achieving their goals,” described Batista. 

Batista is also a co-founder of the California Community Colleges Organización de Latinx Empowerment, Guidance, Advocacy for Success (COLEGAS), a group of Latinx professionals dedicated to making systemic change for community college students. After starting in 2018, Batista said the organization continues to grow. “It is so encouraging to connect with colegas statewide and build community, to hear people say, ‘I’ve never been in a room with this many Latinx professionals.’ There have been so many powerful moments where I feel honored and privileged to be part of the creation of this experience. We are creating a space, supporting each other, and lifting up our collective sabiduría, for the good of sustaining ourselves and supporting student success. Our shared experiences are so rich and filled with hope for what the future can be,” said Batista.  

As a member of Saint Mary’s Alumni Board of Directors and past president, Batista maintains her connection to the College. “I continue to encourage and support students to attend. I would tell them to not get discouraged by the price tag. Saint Mary’s does offer an education and an experience that is priceless that will continue to serve you in your life. My hope is that SMC will also continue to offer students generous financial aid. Receiving financial aid was a game changer—without it, I wouldn’t have been able to attend,” said Batista.  

Batista calls on fellow alumni to stay involved and support current students in any way possible. “It’s not just about sharing your treasure; it’s about reconnecting to campus and sharing your time and talent as well. If every alumni contributed in at least one of those areas, we can ensure that students today have an experience where they will also feel compelled to enter to learn, and leave to serve for the greater good.”