Grace Willerton, center, shows her award to her UNM-LA colleagues, Elizabeth Rademacher and Kathryn Vigil. Photo by Sharon Hurley/UNM-LA
UNM-Los Alamos (UNM-LA) Student Success Associate Grace Willerton was recently honored with an Excellence in Advising Award by the Provost Committee for Advising at The University of New Mexico.
These awards are presented to advisors who proactively demonstrate passion towards the advising profession and commitment to students’ success by encouraging them to overcome challenges, hurdles, transitions, and maximize opportunities relative to the students’ educational plans, career, and life goals.
Willerton has worked at UNM-LA for six years, initially working in advising and recruiting. Later, when the college received a grant to participate in the Accelerate Program, she became the UNM-LA Accelerate Program Coordinator, developing a career preparation program for non-traditional students. In this capacity, she also earned a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) credential, a nationally recognized certificate. When the grant ended, she returned to the student services area as a student success advisor.
As an academic advisor, Willerton works with students from the time of orientation through choosing a degree program, selecting classes, and troubleshooting any situations that interfere with success. Her support continues through their completion at UNM-LA, whether transferring to another college, undertaking a job search, or graduating.
Using her experience with Accelerate, Willerton created a program to provide career development services for all students, and also compiled the content for the career pages of the UNM-LA website.
For the past five years, Willerton has organized an annual job fair, which hosted over 25 businesses and attracted over 100 job seekers this year. “I realized that this community did not offer a job fair catering to a wide range of student interests,” she said. “I wanted to extend that opportunity to everyone.”
Willerton was nominated for the award by Academic Student Success Manager Elizabeth Rademacher, with letters of support from UNM-LA Director of Student Affairs Kathryn Vigil and Dean of Instruction Dr. Sharon Hurley.
According to Rademacher, “Grace always takes a personal interest in each student’s journey. She utilizes her expansive career knowledge to support undecided students in their self-discovery.”
“Grace is both an advisor and a friend,” Vigil said. “Students come back after leaving this campus to tell her about their new experiences, to thank her for helping them build a solid foundation, and to simply let her know that they are continuing to meet her expectations of them. Grace’s efforts and her characteristics represent all that is good in academic advising.”
Dr. Hurley said, “Grace is passionate about the work that she does and how she does it. She is certified as a Career Development Facilitator and often engages in activities designed to assist students with career preparation, resume creation, and development of interview skills.”
Dr. Hurley added, “Grace has a way of showing that she cares about students and faculty as individuals; she remembers details about students’ experiences and lives and the struggle each faces. She is able to truly advise our students, not just help them select a class in which to enroll.”
This year’s recipients were honored on May 17 at the Provost’s Staff Awards Reception. A plaque and a monetary award was presented to each of the four award recipients at the ceremony.
UNM-Los Alamos is an innovative, rigorous, and affordable comprehensive branch community college that provides foundations for transfer, leading-edge career programs, and lifelong learning opportunities.