Meet UW Law’s new Assistant Dean for Admissions & Financial Aid

The number of students whose lives Cristina Arteaga has impacted is staggering: Over her 15-plus-year career in university admissions, she has helped thousands of students across the country begin their journeys in higher education.

Now, she is taking the next step in a journey of her own.

This summer, Arteaga became the University of Washington School of Law’s new Assistant Dean for Admissions & Financial Aid following a nationwide search. The position builds on her previous experience as assistant director of admissions, which she held from 2016. As a member of UW Law’s senior leadership team, she will oversee the law school’s recruiting and admissions efforts.

At its core, Arteaga’s new role is an extension of a lifelong commitment to helping students and represents the joy she gets seeing them achieve their goals.

“It's a special experience to meet students at the beginning of their journey and then see them graduate years later,” Arteaga said. “And to know that I had a small part in that is incredibly rewarding.”

A Southern California native hailing from Azusa in Los Angeles County, Arteaga is the oldest of three siblings and was the first in her family to go to college. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley before earning her master’s in higher education at UCLA.

In 2003, she began her work in student affairs — the start of a career in university admissions that would take her across the country: USC School of Pharmacy; University of Utah SJ Quinney College of Law; and Yale School of Medicine.

Of all the places she has lived, Arteaga has found a deep connection with the Pacific Northwest — one of the many selling points she now passes on to prospective students.

“I've lived all over the country and I can definitely say Seattle is such a nice blend of a lot of different elements,” Arteaga said. “This is a great city where students have an opportunity to flourish as law students.”

She said UW Law stands out in that it bucks the stereotypes of the cutthroat, dog-eat-dog law school experience. Instead, she said, the sense of community is what shines.

“People really care about what they do here; they care about the students,” she said. “I felt like I joined a community that was always working toward providing the best possible environment for our students to grow.”

For successful future law students, Arteaga said, the experience begins long before setting foot in a classroom, and it starts with applicants being true to themselves.

Of the thousands of applications she has reviewed over her career, Arteaga said the ones that jump off the page are those in which she feels she is getting to know a person — someone who she can picture walking the halls of UW Law or connecting with a particular professor.

Just how does one strike that balance of meeting academic requirements while connecting with admissions professionals?

When someone is very real about who they are, that’s when I can see the connections and see that they will make a great addition to the program.

Cristina Arteaga

“Don’t try to be anyone else,” Arteaga said. “Think about why is it that you want to go to law school and let that be the starting point for crafting your story and application. The more honest you are with yourself about those kinds of questions, the more we get to know you, and when someone is very real about who they are, that’s when I can see the connections and see that they will make a great addition to the program.”

Following the departure of her predecessor in 2018, Arteaga served as interim Assistant Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid, overseeing the day-to-day functions of the Admissions Office and successfully managing the past academic year’s admission cycle.

As UW Law heads into the next year, the cycle begins all over again, which is one of the very best parts of Arteaga’s job.

“Having students come up to me and thank me for the opportunity to be here is incredibly humbling, because they did all the work; I was just here to guide them,” Arteaga said. “But that sense of gratefulness is what keeps me going. That's the joy that I get out of my work.  And I get to experience that every year with a new group of students.”