Calvin Hughes

There are times you have to admit that your parents were right. For Calvin Hughes, his parents’ encouragement of learning Spanish was one of those times.

His father, a high school teacher in Salem, Oregon, could see the value of learning Spanish as he watched the Latino community in their area continue to grow. And learning Spanish served Hughes well on mission trips to build houses and churches in Mexico when he was in high school. But by college, after seven years of classroom Spanish, he felt he had had enough. His parents kept pestering.

“Fine, I’m going to Ecuador!” he recalls saying during his sophomore year of college.

The experience not only helped him hone his language skills beyond what can be taught in a classroom but he gained a better understanding of the culture (and consequently became a soccer fan after attending some rowdy matches).  He also learned some important life lessons.

“Going abroad definitely helped me realize the value of creating deeper relationships,” he says.

It’s that understanding of human connection that he brings to his role as an academic advisor for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“A lot of people have a misperception about advising. A student will come in and all they want is a PIN number, because that’s all they’ve been told to want,” he says.

However, he wants to do more for the students than hand out PIN numbers. He uses a developmental model to help students identify their goals to make fulfilling plans for the future. But he does not have set questions to ask when they step in his office.

“Advising is unique to each individual, and it’s unique to the relationship you have with them,” he says. “And asking the tough questions takes a lot of courage and honesty, but if you ask the right questions, people will be willing to share the things that weigh most heavily upon their heart.”

Ever since he worked as a peer mentor in high school, Hughes knew he wanted to work with people, so got his degree in sociology at Oregon State University and then worked for the Boys and Girls Club. It was there he realized he really enjoyed talking to students about their dreams and goals of going to college. So he returned to OSU for graduate school where he earned his Ed.M. in college student services administration.

College turned out to be more than an education for Hughes — it is also where he met his wife.

“She sat behind me in one of my classes. After about the third class we met over at Dutch Bros. and talked about how many kids we wanted. It was pretty simple. It was a pretty easy decision for both of us,” he says.

Both wanted to stay in Corvallis where they are close to family, especially now that they have started a family of their own. “We decided we should keep our daughter close to grandma and grandpa,” he says.

Being close means they can continue to join in the Hughes family tradition of camping and fishing at the Metolius River. “I’ve gone every year of my life since I was an infant,” he says of the outing his daughter will now be a part of.

—By Rachel Robertson