Valerie Sanchez
Valerie Sanchez, a biomedical administrator with the UCI Office of Research’s Institutional Review Board, says her University Extension coursework has given her “additional leverage for upward mobility.” Steve Zylius/ University Communications

Valerie Sanchez’s job at UC Irvine is to ensure that researchers using human subjects in drug and treatment trials comply with all relevant laws, policies and procedures. Daniel Koblin, a certified financial planner at Pinnacle Financial Group in Los Angeles, helps clients weather the cloudy economic climate and plan for better days.

What do they have in common? Both say they owe their rewarding careers to UCI’s University Extension, which offers continuing education through more than 60 certificate, training and specialized study programs. Most of the 15,000 students it serves annually are, like Sanchez, looking to increase expertise in their current career fields or, like Koblin, seeking to change careers and/or start their own businesses.

Sanchez and Koblin took time out of their schedules recently to explain how Extension classes helped get them where they are today.

Valerie Sanchez

Q: What is your role in clinical research at UCI?
A: I work with the Office of Research’s Institutional Review Board, which approves and conducts periodic reviews of studies involving human subjects. As an IRB administrator, I assess biomedical research studies in preparation for review by the IRB committee to ensure that the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected.

Q: How did your Extension classes prepare you for what you do?
A: The clinical trials and regulatory affairs management certificate programs gave me the specialized knowledge and understanding of how research is conducted – including all the elements involved in biomedical research, such as human anatomy and physiology, risk analysis, device classifications, good clinical practice, economic and legal principles, patents and much more. The course content was practical, and the instructors were clearly experts in their field and enthusiastic about the industry.

Q: Did you work with your supervisors to map out a plan for development or did you do it yourself?
A: I approached my supervisors in the Office of Research with the idea of completing the certificate programs, and they fully supported my academic endeavors. In addition, I used University Extension resources after completing my certificates, and they helped by reviewing my resume and going over potential interview questions.

Q: What rewards (beyond monetary) do you reap in your new position?
A: I’ve become more confident in my field and more efficient in the reviews I conduct. In-person instruction also offered opportunities for networking, which has proven invaluable. I’ve kept in touch with a few classmates, and we’re able to consult with each other on professional issues that arise. And my Extension experience has provided me additional leverage for upward mobility. Since completing the certificate programs in 2008, so many doors have opened for me.

Daniel Koblin

Q: Why did you choose the personal financial planning certificate program through University Extension for your new career path?
A: UCI had an excellent reputation. I had recruited from various UCI programs during my years in human resources and found the students to be of very high caliber. I also found the introductory financial planning course to be very interesting, so I figured the other classes would be as well.

Q: Do you feel as if you have more control in your own business or just more responsibility?
A: It’s a mix. I feel I have much more control over my career and my life. At the same time, running my own business is very hard work and requires long hours. But it’s gratifying, since I’m able to build something I can call my own.

Q: Would you recommend self-employment to others?
A: Yes, but only if they really understand what it takes to be successful. Running a business is a 24/7 commitment, particularly when you’re dealing with people’s money. As a business owner, you’re responsible for everything – sales, marketing, planning, research, administration – the whole ball of wax.

Q: How did Extension classes prepare you for what you do now?
A: Extremely well. All the instructors were practitioners in their areas of expertise, so they brought real-life experience into the classroom. The information was relevant, practical and timely. I use it every day in my role as a financial planner.