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Valerie Herrera Negrete


  • Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning


Current Occupation: Associate Environmental Planner 


Since she was a student in college, Valerie has always been interested in City Planning. She recalls being a single parent struggling to find housing in the neighborhood she grew up in. It was important for her to be in a role where she is able to shape the community and that means the world to her. Obtaining a graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning from San Jose State University, along with her extensive experience, has prepared her to face some of the challenges of growing a city.

“Housing has become increasingly difficult to find since then and within the last few years I have been fortunate to work on a few housing projects and programs. While I was at the City of Gilroy, I successfully processed a density bonus low-income senior housing project just outside of the City’s downtown district. The project will be complete with public art, dog park, community center and garden style courtyard,” Valerie shared.

This is just one of the many examples of how Valerie’s work is improving the lives of the community. She has been at the County of Santa Clara for the last 2 years where she is responsible for reporting the County’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers to the State California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD and ensuring the County is on target to reach their fair share of housing numbers each year. In 2017, she worked on the County’s Farmworker Housing Needs Assessment program partnering with other local agencies to meet with County farmers and assess the needs of local farmworkers. 

“My work with the needs assessment program brought me back to my roots in the Salinas Valley, where my grandmother was a farmworker making this recent housing project more enriching for me,” says Valerie.

She chose to attend SJSU for because the programs offered, the flexibility in completing her degree which allowed her to work full-time. “As a student, I am most proud of completing my master’s degree while being a single parent and working full-time, with the support of my now husband. I had many hurdles and used my experience to work for a non-profit out of Oakland that focused on empowering families on public assistance to pursue their education. I spoke to small groups of students and encouraged them to stay in school and not let their economic challenges get in their way to their education,” says Valerie.

Valerie shared how her degree from San Jose State University allowed her to accomplish her goals and dreams of being part of a larger community to do good. 

Why did you choose to attend SJSU? 

I choose SJSU because for the programs offered, the flexibility in completing my degree. The flexibility which allowed me to work full- time, very important to me so I can also be able to financially take care of my son.

What did you enjoy most about your time at SJSU?

I enjoyed most the professors and variety of material I was able to learn within each course. My favorite instructor was Dr. Laurel Prevetti. Dr. Prevetti was very knowledgeable, detailed and handled politically sensitive questions well in the classroom setting. I was impressed by her calm deminerdomineer and the way she would explain complex topics into small manageable pieces.

What have you done since graduating from SJSU? 

While I attended SJSU, I was working full time for Monterey County as an Environmental Planner. I enjoy the field of planning and had the opportunity towork for the City of Gilroy for 2 years and then with the County of Santa Clara for the past 3 years. My experience working with commercial, residential and housing projects has helped me to thrive at each jurisdiction I’ve worked for.

At the County of Santa Clara, for the last 2 years I have been responsible for reporting the County’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers to the State California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD and ensuring the County is on target to reach their fair share of housing numbers each year. In 2017, I worked on the County’s Farmworker Housing Needs Assessment program whereaswe partnered with other local agencies to meet with County farmers and assess the needs of local farmworkers. My work with the needs assessment program brought me back to my roots in the Salinas Valley, where my grandmother was a farmworker making this recenthousing project more enriching for me.

Part of the work I did with the Needs Assessment informed proposed changes in farmworker housing streamlining ordinances in Santa Clara County. The County’swork with the agricultural community has gained state and local recognition, in 2018 the County was awarded the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). One of the provisions of this plan is to streamline development of agricultural worker housing.


Recently housing legislation geared to increase the housing shortage have given me the opportunity to apply for grant funding to develop more affordable housing in the County and housing specifically for farmworkers. I’m excited to be part of a team applying for State funding for farmworker housing here in Santa Clara County.

Although I love working on housing, I also enjoy working with natural resources and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While at Gilroy I worked closely with the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency and processed dozens of projects that were subject to coverage under the Habitat Plan which allowed the agency to purchase larger parcels for habitat reserves through the County. In 2017, I provided a training for City staff on processing of these applications for the Agency and I also participated in a larger training for local agencies such as the City of Morgan Hill, City of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.

While with Gilroy, I worked with the Economic Development section and successfully processed Gilroy’s newest hotel, Hampton Inn, which just broke ground in late 2018. The hotel will be complete with a swimming pool and meeting rooms for travelers to South County. 

Do you think your time at SJSU helped you to pursue your career? 

My profession requires a master’s degree. Some planners do work their way up the ranks but I found in Silicon Valley to be more difficult to allow this .In the Bay Area, I have found employers would often ask me about my schooling and while I was on the inside I know applications would be “weeded out” based on education, so I am glad I decided to continue my education.


I was interested in housing and planning when I first decided to pursue my graduate degree in Urban and Regional Planning. By the time I attended SJSU I was already working full-time for a government agency doing Planning work so I was fortunate to see the academic and practical side of my profession.

Describe your SJSU experience in three words? 

Colorful, Engaging and Life-changing. 

Previous Spartan Spotlights

Gil Villagrán

Degree: Master of Social Work, 1976 and Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, 1971 
Current Occupation: Retired

Bio: Gil Villagrán worked as a Social Worker for Santa Clara County Social Services Agency for 30 years, serving families to address child abuse, family violence, poverty and youth gang involvement. He was also a professor for the SJSU School of Social Work for 20 years and retired at the end of the Fall 2016 semester.

Stephanie Bravo

Degree: B.A., Psychology, Cum Laude, 2003 - 2009
Current Occupation: Founder of Elite Career Coach

Bio: Featured in several publications including CNN/Fortune, The Huffington Post, U.S. News and World Report, U.S.A. Today to name a few and named as one of the 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Stephanie Bravo is a millennial leader with a strong track record creating high-impact organizations that transform people's lives.

Damian Trujillo 

Degree: B.S., Journalism, 1988 – 1993
Current Occupation: News Reporter, KNTV NBC Bay Area

Bio: Since 1996, Damian Trujillo has been a NBC Bay Area News reporter, host and producer of “Comunidad Del Valle,” the longest running public affairs program in the Bay Area. Damian has been honored with awards from the Associated Press, the Radio and Television News Director's Association (RTNDA), and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Mr. Trujillo was named the "2004 Reporter of the Year" by the Associated Press Television and Radio Association for California and Nevada and five times nominated for an Emmy Award.

Melinda Chacón

Degree: B.A., Hospitality Administration/Management, 2004
Current Occupation: Office Manager, Joint Venture Silicon Valley

Bio: Melinda is an active leader in the San Jose community via her work and volunteerism. She creates impactful events that connect our community including the annual Dia San Jose and most recently the State of the Valley. For her work and dedication Melinda was recently recognized by Senator Jim Beall as a 2016 Senate District 15 Women of the Year with the Rising Star Award and The California Young Democrats Latino Caucus awarded her the 2016 Living the California Dream Madrina Award at the 2016 California Democrats State Convention.

Eulises Valdovinos

Degree: B.S. Industrial & Systems Engineering, 2012-2016
Current Occupation: Cloud Demand Manager, Oracle 

Bio: Previous Supply Chain, Product Operations Intern at Cisco, Peer Advisor for MESA Engineering Program and former President of SOLES (Society of Latino Engineers & Scientists). 

Andrea C. Soto

Degree: B.S. Civil Engineering, expected Fall 2018

Bio: Since transferring to SJSU in Fall 2016, Andrea C. Soto has had lots of support and inspiration from SJSU staff, instructors, and others as she pursues her degree in Civil Engineering. Andrea is maximizing her SJSU experience with many volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities, where she participated at the WiE Women’s in Engineering Conference as a student ambassador. This summer she was selected as one of 16 engineering students to participate in the “Global Technology Institute” in Taiwan. In addition, this summer she started an internship at NASA Ames Research Center at the Technology Transfer Office. 

Dr. Fabio Gonzalez 

Degrees: Master of Arts (M.A.), Counselor Education/School Counseling and Guidance Services, Community College, 2003 / Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Spanish Language and Literature, 1999

Current Occupation: EOPS Coordinator/Counselor at San Jose City College
In Dr. Fabio Gonzalez’s tenure as a faculty member and professor at San Jose City College he had the privilege to work with underrepresented and low-income students through the Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS). Through his passion of helping others with experiences like his own, Dr. Gonzalez held several prominent roles that would ultimately help others navigate through the college experience, roles such as Academic Senate President, District Academic Senate President, Faculty Union Executive Board member, California Community College EOPS Association President, Latin@ Education Association Chair, and Statewide Academic Senate representative to various taskforces.

Manuel Nunez, Ed.


  • Masters of Arts, Counselor Education (2011)

  • Doctorate in Educational Leadership (2018)


Current Occupation: Principal, Seaside Middle School

Manuel Nunez, Ed.D is currently serving his fourth year as the principal of Seaside Middle School with Monterey Peninsula Unified. “I enjoy the opportunity that I have on a daily basis to impact the trajectory of our future. Serving students that come from a similar background is a blessing. Our school has adopted the motto, Together We Rise, emphasizing on the importance of ALL stakeholders as part of the process to change a school system” says Manny.

Patricia Mondragón


  • Administrative Services Credential ‒ Clear Credential (2013)

  • MA in Education- Administration & Supervision (2012)

  • BCLAD Certificate (Spn.) (2008)

  • Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (2007)

  • BA in Child and Adolescent Development (2007)


Current Occupation: Principal, South Valley Middle School


Patricia Mondragón was born in El Monte, California. For most of her childhood, her family moved from town to town, looking for fieldwork. “Still to this day, when I reminisce on those unforgettable moments, I can smell the beautiful aromas coming from the strawberry fields in Watsonville or the orange orchards in Wasco. It was painstaking work but I wouldn’t change those experiences for anything. They taught me so many great life lessons and helped me appreciate mother earth and learn the importance of an education,” recalls Patricia.

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