Degree: Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration
College/School: School of Education and Human Development
Growing up in Honduras, Claudia Castillo loved watching travel shows. These inspired her dreams of working in the hospitality and tourism industry, building relationships with people, providing great customer service and making them happy.
To find better opportunities, Claudia moved with her mother to Miami and began working full-time while taking English classes at night. A year later, at age 18, Claudia was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus. Despite chronic fatigue, constant pain and depression — and being told by doctors she had just six months to live — she beat the odds. Claudia went on to earn a bachelor’s in hospitality management from FIU in 1995.
She joined the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and served in a variety of roles, including career development counselor and adjunct instructor. During that time, she earned a master’s degree in human resource development and adult education from FIU’s School of Education and Human Development.
After more than 17 years at the Chaplin School, Claudia wanted to take her career to the next level in hopes of impacting as many students as possible. She enrolled in a Ph.D. program and dedicated her dissertation research to better understanding students with disabilities and their experiences with higher education services and accommodations as well as work preparation programs, so that she might help them achieve their career dreams.
It has not been easy for Claudia as she has had to battle complications and symptoms associated with her illness, including asthma, glaucoma, shingles and stomach ulcers. Claudia credits working with students and having a positive attitude with giving her the energy needed to keep going.