Retired Founder-Director Sam Castañeda

Sam Castaneda

Sam Castañeda retired in 2018, after working for the University of California (UC) -- at both the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses -- for more than 35 years, creating the Visiting Scholars and Postdoc Affairs Office. Over the course of his tenure, he created innovative programs that provide support to international students and scholars.  Sam also simultaneously held leadership positions with the California Regional Chapter of NAFSA:  Association of International Educators.  At the national level, Sam was the founder and current chair of the NAFSA Postdoc Special Interest Group and institutional liaison between NAFSA and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).  He also served as co-chair of the Graduate Career Consortium Annual Conference held on the Berkeley campus in 2016.

At UC Berkeley, Sam was the Founder and Director of the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) Program -- the first postdoc office in the UC system and one of the first in the United States.  As Director of UC Berkeley’s VSPA Program, Sam was responsible for the oversight of postdocs and visiting scholars through a variety of professional support systems. 

At UC Berkeley, Sam created customized symposia, workshops and networking events designed to support and connect Berkeley’s 1,500 postdocs, 1,500 visiting scholars and 1,200 visiting student researchers with professional resources to broaden their career and professional development opportunities.  With an extensive student and scholar background, Sam earned recognition in particular for a variety of tailored resources serving the postdoc community including the Berkeley Postdoc Entrepreneur Program, the Postdoc Industry Exploration Program, and the Postdoc Teaching Opportunity Program.  Other programs he  created address stress reduction, mentorship, language and communication, networking, personal development, and conflict resolution.  Sam has been particularly proud of the creation of the Berkeley Spouses, Partners, and Parents Association which provides a largely international community of spouse/partner professionals with access to career counseling, language and communication courses, psychological intervention, cultural adjustment, and networking.

For more than ten years, Sam was chair of the UC system Postdoc Work Group where he spearheaded the establishment of job codes that provide health and welfare benefits for postdocs and their dependents throughout the UC System.  He was also founder and Managing Editor of the UC Postdoc Newsletter, an electronic journal that connects more than 6,500 postdocs with 500 faculty and staff administrators who work together to enhance the postdoctoral experience at UC.

With regard to the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) in particular, Sam was a Founding Member of the NPA Advisory Council, the first Chair of the International Committee, and author of the NPA International Postdoc Survival Guide, which is still in use today, with annual updates.  Sam was Chair of the Inaugural, Fifth, Tenth and 15th NPA Annual Conference local planning committee and was responsible for fundraising approximately $180K. 

Sam’s retirement wishlist addresses one of the most pressing concerns for postdocs trying to live in the Bay Area, afforable housing.  He hopes to continue to advocate on behalf of postdocs and visiting scholars across a wide spectrum of concerns.