Drake University took a powerful step this summer in renewing its commitment to the growth and development of the Drake Neighborhood when University officials hired Drake alumnus Nick Valdez to the position of neighborhood and community relations manager.
In this new University role Valdez will develop and strengthen partnerships between the University and Drake Neighborhood stakeholders to strengthen the overall economic development and vitality of the area. He will serve as the central point of contact for Drake Neighborhood businesses, institutions, and residents to support mutual campus and community engagement, to address community concerns, and to advance new partnership opportunities.
“Drake University and its surrounding community have a deep and unshakeable bond, rooted in shared history and sustained by a deep commitment to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues, and a shared vision for the future,” said Drake University President Marty Martin. “Nick is an exceptional representative for the University and its commitment to catalyzing relationships and opportunities that enhance the student and community experience."
Valdez is an experienced community planner with a warm personality, a strategic mind, and deep personal and professional ties to the University. He earned a Master of Public Administration from Drake in 2014, a degree he earned while working in a prior role at the University. He served as a campus public safety officer for the Drake Public Safety department from 2011 until being hired as neighborhood and community relations manager.
Valdez will represent Drake at nonprofit and community events, neighborhood meetings, city council meetings, and other stakeholder meetings to ensure meaningful collaboration between the University and surrounding community. Since assuming the role in late May, he has met extensively with the neighborhood leaders, local business owners, and Drake University faculty, staff, and administrators, to discuss a variety of topics including food insecurity, refugee assistance, community health issues, and economic development.
He was instrumental in supporting the preparation of the University’s request for proposals, issued to eleven Iowa firms on July 18, to develop University-owned land along University Avenue in Des Moines. Drake is working alongside the Neighborhood Development Corporation to select a developer whose project will be in keeping with the neighborhood’s character and beneficial to Drake students, neighborhood residents, and the economic growth of the area.
“I am honored and excited to serve as neighborhood and community relations manager for Drake University,” Valdez said. “I have a rich understanding of the University and its surrounding neighborhood, and I am energized by the shared commitment by University and community stakeholders to build meaningful partnerships that advance economic development and revitalization."
Valdez’s passion for neighborhood revitalization began at home, when he took advantage of West Des Moines city programs that helped him to renovate his historic property in Valley Junction. He served on a committee to develop the Historic West Des Moines Master Plan for the economic development, neighborhood revitalization, streetscape design, and land use in the Valley Junction neighborhood. He’s also helped to plan multicultural neighborhood events including Taste of the Junction and Cinco de Mayo in the Valley Junction Business District.
Valdez will also oversee University events and sponsorships to enhance the University’s image and reputation within central Iowa.