Inspire Interview with Lucero Guadalupe Benitez Vega

UCSF Fresno’s success and growth are a direct result of the dedication and inspiration of our faculty, staff, residents, fellows, students, alumni, partners, donors and friends. In each issue of Focus, we introduce you to the people who contribute to the greatness of UCSF Fresno through informal interviews.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a fitting time to highlight the newest addition to our Communications team who is helping enhance communications with Spanish-speaking communities.

Lucero Guadalupe Benitez Vega (right) and family

This month, meet Lucero Guadalupe Benitez Vega, bilingual communications specialist in the UCSF Fresno Public Affairs, Communications and Government Relations Office.

What is your name? Nickname? 

My full name is long. I carry a first name, middle name, and both of my mother’s last names. It is Lucero Guadalupe Benitez Vega. My nickname is Lucy.

What is your hometown? Where did you go to school? High School? Undergrad? What were your majors?

My hometown is Salinas, California, where I went to four elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. I graduated from Alisal High School in East Salinas. My major was Mass Communications and Journalism with a minor in Spanish at Fresno State. From what I remember, I was one class shy from a minor in theater.

What is your title and role at UCSF Fresno in the Public Affairs, Communications and Government Relations Office? How long have you been in this role?

I am a Bilingual Communications Specialist and have been in this role for a little over a year. I continue to learn so much each day and still feel like a new hire.

Why did this position and UCSF Fresno appeal to you?

This position appealed to me because it was listed as a position where Spanish was required. I am a Mexican native whose first language was Spanish, and I pursued a minor in Spanish because I knew my Spanish needed to improve if I wanted to be a news reporter for Telemundo. I knew I needed to be able to read, write and speak the language grammatically correctly. While I was in news, I reported for NBC and Telemundo simultaneously for over eight years. When I left news and transitioned into Communications in higher education, I was not using my Spanish skills or working with the Spanish-speaking community as much as I had hoped.  I missed that part of my job. Having grown up in East Salinas in an agricultural community, my intention was always to serve the Spanish-speaking community. Based on the job description, I felt I would be able to get that part of my career back. I think it’s extremely important not only to represent the Hispanic community in a professional field but also to be able to provide a service to them. I aspired to be in a position where I could serve my community but also where I could hopefully inspire them.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?

The most challenging aspect is learning about UCSF Fresno. Learning the departments, differentiating  fellowships from residencies and understanding each program and position takes time. I feel like I need flowcharts for everything! The most rewarding aspects are making connections with people. I really enjoy interviewing people, learning about who they are, what they do and then building on that to produce a video or write a story. Watching the result and receiving positive feedback fills my cup.

What is at the top of your professional to-do list right now? What is at the top of your personal to-do list?

At the top of my professional to-do-list is to be able to shoot and produce video segments with me as a host. I would be interviewing our campus community and sharing their expertise and telling their stories. There’s so much power in social media now.  I think about how far a video can reach and the impact that the topic can have on someone’s life – whether it means inspiring them to pursue the medical field, find answers to medical questions or find guidance to move forward. I’ve always wanted to share as much as I possibly can to inspire and motivate others and if I could do it in English AND Spanish, that’s a major plus.

At the top of my personal to-do-list is to compete in a bikini fitness competition. I’ve always admired the willpower and discipline athletes must have to achieve their goals and the incredible strength of our bodies. I didn’t play sports growing up and I always told myself that if I was brave enough, I would compete in a fitness competition before I turned 40. Because I’m constantly reminding my kids they can be or do anything, I needed to follow that myself. I’m turning 40 in January, and I’ve trained for 16 weeks to compete in mid-September. I checked that off my list and it feels so surreal!  

The zombie apocalypse is coming. Who would you pick from UCSF Fresno to be on your team and why?

I feel like I have to say Sierra Anderson in Emergency Medicine because well, she’s in Emergency Medicine. Kidding, I would choose her because I’ve worked with her in the past and have known her for a few years. She’s strict on following the rules, being on time and doing things right so I feel like she would make sure she knew exactly where the zombies are and how to stay away from them. My colleague Barbara Anderson would also be on my team because she would make sure we’re not being tracked, and that we stay warm during our trek to save ourselves. She has a heater and gloves in our office which is always freezing. Finally, Brandy Nikaido would join us because she’s a true leader. She would keep us calm and make sure we were not going into any danger. If we did go into danger, she would negotiate with the zombies and save us all.

What do you like to do in your off time?

In my off time, I love being with my kids. As much as they drive me crazy, they keep me sane. I have a 17-year-old daughter who is loving and caring. She is my peace and calm, although at this age I must bribe her to hang out with me. My 7-year-old daughter is my wild child. She says it how it is and keeps me grounded but also reminds me that it’s OK to break the rules and have fun; although sometimes I’m a little much for her and her constant phrase is “Mom, please stop, just stop.” My 5- year-old son is smart and witty. He gives me all the hugs and kisses the others don’t, but it can be a little much because he won’t leave me out of his sight and that can drive me a little crazy. I would say the best times with them are when we are together, not doing anything or being spontaneous. I love being spontaneous with them because of their reactions. Something so simple like a surprise trip to Dollar Tree can bring them so much joy.

I also like hanging out with the father of those three beautiful children, my partner Freddy. Whenever I'm at the tip of making a crazy decision (like leaving my family behind for a dream job opportunity in the Bay Area, getting out of news to spend more time with my family or training for a fitness competition), he gives me the push I need to go for it without doubting myself. It’s been 19 years and he’s still holding on through my craziness. I think he’s a keeper.

What is the most important thing you would like people to know about you? Or what else would you like to add about you, your background, family, or career?

I take a lot of pride in what I do and how much I have accomplished. My family and I immigrated from Mexico and that really built my character and has always been my motivation to continue to grow professionally and personally. When I feel stalled, I remind myself that nothing is holding me back. My family overcame so much more so that I had the opportunities to move forward and grow personally and professionally.

I come from a single parent home, was raised by my grandparents and their nine children, but was the only one to graduate high school and go to a university. I completed my bachelor’s degree in four years with a 1-year-old daughter. I then made every move I needed to  pursue a career in news. I went from reporting news in my hometown to reporting news in market No. 6 in the Bay Area while hauling a little girl along with me. I faced many challenges but held myself to a higher standard because of the name I carry. I don’t know much of my family history, but want to make sure that my kids, grandchildren and so on, are able to see how much a Benitez Vega accomplished. And I want them to do even greater things.

Part of Newsletter: Focus on UCSF Fresno Fall 2023