It’s fair to say that Donna Chavez has made it in a man’s world.
A lifelong Las Vegas resident, Chavez worked in her uncle’s auto-body repair shop, sanding and painting cars. She spent two years working 12-hour days shoveling gravel in a Santa Fe pit and was the caretaker for a Villanueva ranch.
On Feb. 8, Chavez was named the first female director of facilities at the United World College-USA, where she got her start in 2008 as the Montezuma campus’ first female groundskeeper.
“I was very honored for being a woman,” the 41-year-old mother of two said about her promotion.
A 1998 graduate of Robertson High School, Chavez oversees 13 employees in maintenance, grounds, custodial and transportation. She replaces former director of facilities David Vigil, who retired in May 2020 after 26 years at UWC-USA.
Chavez worked in grounds for five years, maintenance for two, and a few years later, was named the grounds and maintenance supervisor. She has been the acting director of facilities since Vigil’s retirement.
Chavez was promoted to the director’s position for several reasons, including her longevity, institutional knowledge and close working relationship with Vigil, said UWC-USA Chief Finance and Operations Officer Taylor Gantt.
“One thing that surprised me the most was her willingness to be coached and learn,” Gantt said. “She was never defensive and always very coachable, which gave me a lot of confidence in her work.”
Chavez said she learned a lot from Vigil – her mentor and teacher.
“I felt I could give this place more and wanted to take on the next mission to better myself for my family,” she said. “I know it’s a lot of work, but I’ve grown to love this place.”
Chavez expects the campus’ aging infrastructure to be her biggest challenge.
She also appreciates her co-workers.
“We’re like family,” Chavez said. “We’re here for each other and everyone is very supportive of each other.”
She and her significant other, Leon Batoma, are the parents of Eliana, 4, and Christina, 3.