National organization recognizes Student Affairs staff for excellence

Closeup of Ellen Taylor
Ellen Taylor

The nation’s largest professional association for student affairs professionals, NASPA, has recognized five individuals at Washington State University for their dedication to and excellence in serving students.

Ellen Taylor, vice chancellor for Student Affairs on the Pullman campus, received the Region V Scott Goodnight Award for Outstanding Performance as a Dean.

The award is given to a professional who has served as a senior student affairs officer for more than 15 years and has made exemplary contributions to the student affairs profession.

A self-described incorrigible optimist, Taylor believes and embraces what she refers to as the “engagement mindset,” which requires the participation of not just students, but staff and faculty at all levels of the university. She is admired for her ability to balance compassion with her goal of helping WSU grow and improve.

In her nomination, Kim Holapa, associate vice chancellor for strategic initiatives in Student Affairs, wrote that Taylor has been a calming force for many staff members by being a good listener, getting to the heart of issues, and addressing concerns with care and consistency. She called Taylor’s leadership strategic and innovative.

“Working with Ellen has allowed many around her to grow, establish their own voice in leadership, and be decision makers in their own right,” Holapa said. “She is a connection point within our university and community — people are drawn to her warmth, clear thinking, and inclusive approach to leadership.”

Matthew Jeffries, the director for campus climate and community building in Student Affairs, wrote in his nomination that Taylor’s exemplary management is evident in the way she interacts with all members of the Student Affairs staff.

“Her management style is candid, honest, and 100% authentic,” Jeffries said. “She cares deeply about the people she manages and sees the responsibility of moving our division forward as an honor.”

Several other Student Affairs professionals at WSU received recognition from NASPA:

Jeffries accepted a new role with NASPA as a founding member of the organization’s national Mid-Level Administrators Steering Committee. The committee examines the unique challenges mid-level employees (assistant directors, associate directors, and directors) experience in their jobs, including supervision, mentorship, risk management, and burnout.

“I love our profession and I want to help shape a different future for mid-level professionals,” Jeffries said. “I think we get stuck in this monolith regarding what we do, and our work is so intricate and diverse.”

Karen Metzner, assistant dean of students and director for the Center for Community Standards, received the Region V Outstanding Mid-Level Professional Award.

“We often don’t get to see the seeds that we plant grow,” she said. “This recognition provided me the opportunity to stop and reflect on my work and reminded me what I do is impactful to the WSU community.”

Sylvia Rangel-van Breda Vriesman, student counselor and wellness coordinator at WSU Tri-Cities, received the Outstanding New Professional Award for Region V.

“This award is a reminder that my work is important, valued, and honors my dedication to helping students with their mental health and well-being,” Rangel-van Breda Vriesman said.

Andy Song, health education coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students, was awarded a $325 scholarship to attend the NASPA Western Regional Conference.

“The conference was a great experience,” Song said. “I learned so much about student affairs and made so many connections with professionals from different institutions doing similar work as me.” 

The award recipients were honored during the NASPA Western Regional Conference in Anaheim, California, earlier this month. NASPA Region V encompasses the states of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

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