Women Crushing Wednesday: Valerie Simons

WCW Valerie web

This week in our #WomenCrushingWednesday series, we feature Valerie Simons, Chief Compliance Officer and System Title IX Coordinator for University of Colorado. She is the latest woman we know who is simply CRUSHING IT! We took some time to get to know Valerie and hear about her career journey and passions.

The Why: why do you do what you do? Why are you passionate about your work and/or community contributions?

I’ve spent my entire professional career working to advance equity and access in public educational institutions. This passion and commitment is a direct result of growing up in desegregating schools in Denver Public Schools From kindergarten to my senior year, I saw the potential for tremendous strides in equal opportunity, and yet just like today, significant barriers remained for far too many people. As we know, these societal inequities will only be eliminated if we are working together to address them.

What is one of the biggest challenges that you have overcome, and how did you overcome it?

Paying for college. During my second year, I did not have enough money to continue paying for tuition and had to withdraw until I could save enough money to re-enroll. After working four jobs and receiving an anonymous scholarship to apply for housing costs, I was able to return to school and ultimately graduated with honors. It is a continuing reminder to me of our obligation to ensure that public institutions are affordable for all students.

What is your personal motto or favorite quotation?

My CU teams would laugh as they would immediately tell you what I always say:  “One step at a time” and “This is an opportunity for growth.” These phrases perfectly describe my philosophy of breaking down challenges into manageable pieces and my deep optimism that everyone can contribute to making positive and sustainable change.

What is the most interesting/strangest job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I co-founded and operated a law firm for seven years. Running a small, profitable business with some of my favorite professional colleagues was one of the most interesting, rewarding, exciting, and honestly scary experiences I have ever had. I had no idea I had an entrepreneurial spirit and it was wonderful to nurture it.

Advice for others in business based on what you have learned on your journey?

Seek out change and new opportunities and don’t be afraid to be a beginner (again). My career has spanned an incredible diversity of experiences:

  • I’ve litigated on behalf of the United States in multiple states enforcing federal civil rights laws
  • I’ve represented the best interests of children in state court
  • I’ve helped create a new law firm within an educational advocacy organization
  • I run a small law firm
  • I created the first Equity Office at CU Boulder
  • Now I’m the first Chief Compliance Officer at the University of Colorado, overseeing four campuses.

I believe that my current role is a direct result of seeking out new opportunities and gaining a wide variety of skill sets and experiences as a result.

What are you most proud of during the last year?

My daughter and son and their respective graduations from high school and college this last spring. And relatedly, my extended family’s ability to go to my daughter’s graduation in Denver on a Thursday evening and be across the country 36 hours later for my son’s college graduation on Saturday morning. We had a ridiculously ambitious itinerary that left no room for error, including flight or weather delays, but it all went perfectly. My children are now successfully “adulting” and the rest of us are still trying to catch up on sleep!

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