John Salazar: For the Students


Hunter Vasey, Staff

Assistant Dean of Student Success and Residence Life, John Salazar

When a BVU student walks into the office of student success, they probably think there are only a few possibilities. They either have an issue with their housing situation, are speaking with campus security, or undergoing a code of conduct meeting. The truth is, all of these are possibilities, but they are not the only things that happen in the student success office. Students may also find support, conversation, and even a smiling face in the form of John Salazar.

Salazar is new this year to BVU, having taken quite the journey to end up not only in Storm Lake but in his current career as well. When Salazar started his undergrad at Baylor University in Texas, he wasn’t on track to pursue a career in student affairs. In fact, not even close. Instead, he was a law student, specifically hoping to become a judge. It wasn’t until the night before he was scheduled to take the LSATs that he realized that maybe he didn’t want to pursue law at all. Though that was a jarring realization, it didn’t take long to recover. Though he may have briefly struggled after the life-changing decision not to pursue law, Salazar recalled that the director of residence life at Baylor mentioned to him how he thought John was perfect for a career in student affairs. 

To the director’s point, Salazar had been involved on campus, and though he didn’t realize it, he was gaining valuable experience for his future career. Salazar was an active member of several groups on campus, serving as an RA with many responsibilities, and even founded his own Latinx Greek organization. However, when the idea of student affairs came up as a career, Salazar was skeptical. “I came from a family of teachers,” he said. “My dad was a K-12 teacher. I didn’t want to work with K-12.” But after backing out of the standardized test for law school, his viewpoint changed. 

Once Salazar began working in student affairs, he quickly realized that he was doing exactly what he was meant to do. When asked about why he enjoys the career so much he said, “I love residence life. I would do it for my entire career if I could. I especially love to be there for those teachable moments with students and see that growth.”  

His career even led to him finding love. Salazar met his wife, Sarah, while a graduate student at the University of Maryland.  

Sarah was actually the reason Salazar ended up in Storm Lake in his current role at BVU. He explained that he worked at various institutions after completing his graduate program and loved everywhere he worked, but after 2020, something changed. “We just decided after the pandemic that we wanted to be closer to family, just in case, God forbid, something happened.” Sarah’s family lived in Iowa so that’s where they started looking. Nothing really jumped out at Salazar until he got to tour Buena Vista University. 

As he was led around the campus in the summer of 2022, he couldn’t help feeling like it was so different from any other small university he had seen. Not only did he admire the welcoming energy of campus and the beautiful lake within walking distance, but he was also excited by the diversity in the community. “Even just seeing products in Walmart that you normally see in Latino stores was like wow, you don’t see that in every small town,” he said. That’s when Salazar realized that BVU and Storm Lake were where he wanted to be. 

Even though Salazar has only been at the university for a short time, many acknowledge he has made a large impact on students and staff members alike. Dr. Heather Black, vice president of student success, works directly with Salazar every day. She also had a hand in hiring him and remembers his background in residence life being a huge factor in that. Since working on several projects with Salazar, Black said she realized his experience was only one of the benefits to bringing him on. “John is focused on that student experience. He’s very student-centered, and he’s thinking about it from the lens of what they will experience,” she said.  

Black added that Salazar’s interactions with students are more than just disciplinary or administrative. “He’s very personable,” she said. “He likes to joke. He is one that will build community by engaging in events and he’ll sit down and play a board game with you just to get to know you as a person.” 

Though many students may see the office of student success as simply the space where disciplinary actions or housing issues occur, Salazar’s approach to mentoring indicates there is another kind of support that can be found there as well.