“One of my personal missions is to give back to the community I work in and to those people who have helped me along the way,” said Adam Vazquez, Vice President of Information Technology at Hewlett-Packard (HP).

To that end, Vazquez (BS, Computer Science, ’85) has spearheaded the revival of HP’s support of higher education. He engages four leading universities in the United States, including Chico State, to develop real-life projects for students to work on. He started an internship program and new-graduate hiring initiative, which gives interns and new professionals like recent alumna Naomi Miller (BS, Mathematics and Computer Science, ’14) the opportunity to work on multi-billion dollar systems.

“It really made me feel like he valued me and believed in the education I was getting.”

—Naomi Miller (’14), on being recruited by alumnus Adam Vazquez to Hewlett-Packard

“He not only wants to lead his team, he wants to teach his team to lead,” said Miller, who feels inspired seeing Vazquez, as a fellow alum, rise to where he is today and still maintain his commitment to educating and mentoring interns and new staff. “That’s a big thing at Chico—faculty always want us to grow, to see what’s going on, to stay connected—and Adam is the same way.”

Miller first met Vazquez at a campus career fair, when he (under the guise of being a less senior manager) took an interest in her résumé, encouraging her to attend “intern day” at HP’s Roseville office.

Adam Vazquez looks on as his mentee and recent alum Naomi Miller talks to current students about career opportunities at Hewlett-Packard

Adam Vazquez looks on as his mentee and recent alum Naomi Miller talks to current students about career opportunities at Hewlett-Packard.

“It really made me feel like he valued me and believed in the education I was getting,” said Miller, who felt uninspired in high school, despite running out of math classes to take by her junior year. Then the former Butte College child development major transferred to Chico State and discovered she could major in mathematics—a choice that led her to Chris Morris’ introductory computer science class.

“His passion opened up my own,” said Miller, who learned she could compete in the male-dominated STEM fields and that she enjoyed solving complex problems. “I realized I wanted to start a life and build a career based on these things that I was learning.”

Miller wants to be a leader at HP one day—an ambition she attributes to the potential that Vazquez and the HP leadership team saw in her.

“I couldn’t have done it without Chico State.”

—Adam Vazquez (’85), Vice President of Information Technology  at Hewlett-Packard

To get ahead in a rapidly changing technology field, Vazquez says what students need is the very thing he and Miller got at Chico State—tangible experience solving real problems.

“I couldn’t have done it without Chico State,” he said. Faculty were true advocates for students’ success, Vazquez said, “bending over backward” to meet outside of office hours, showing up at career fairs to promote students to recruiters, and building authentic relationships that lasted beyond graduation.

While there was no free ride, “having professors get to know you and work with students that way—it’s unheard of when I talk to peers [who studied at other schools],” said Vazquez. “And I still see that today.”

HP’s commitment to developing young talent is what’s behind its corporate gift to the computer science department, which supports faculty and aims to keep the program affordable for students.

It’s a two-way collaboration, Vazquez said. “You give the students that support, and they deliver. You give the University that support and they give you high-quality students.”