Distinguished Staff Award
Photograph of LeAnne Wiles

LeAnne Wiles

First Year Programs, Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Nominated by Grant Kollet, Director, First Year Programs

Awarded 2014

In twenty years as a student affairs professional, I have not encountered—or in this case supervised—an individual that I feel is more deserving of the Distinguished Staff Award than LeAnne Wiles. LeAnne embodies a unique combination of acumen, motivation, and values. LeAnne came to First Year Programs (FYP) and Undergraduate Academic Aff airs (UAA) as a Program Manager responsible for—among other services—overseeing Parent Orientation and co-leadership of the Freshman Interest Group (FIG) program. Upon her arrival, LeAnne’s demonstrated an exceptional ability to establish and maintain relations across units and to understand the implications of decisions at unit, division, and institutional levels. In fact, her talents were so evident that within 18 months she became my Assistant Director, taking on additional supervisory, office management, planning, and budgeting responsibilities.

Under LeAnne’s guidance, the quality of the Parent Orientation is unprecedented on almost every metric: participation in Parent Orientation has increased by 25% to nearly 4000 parents annually; she has recruited the Provost and Vice Provosts as daily presenters, enhanced printed and online materials, instituted a waiver program for parents with high financial need, negotiated more competitive (and better tasting) contracts with minority and women-owned caterers, collaborated with the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity to provide translation services for Spanish speaking parents, and recognizing the power of first impressions, LeAnne reworked her program finances to provide free parking—all while staying under budget and without increasing the orientation fees! And just four weeks ago, LeAnne was recognized nationally by her professional association, earning a first place award for a printed parent resource calendar.

The FIG program has 135 course sections each fall, an enrollment of 3100 students, and is one of the largest freshmen transition programs nationally. The FIG program has received similar improvements under LeAnne’s direction. For the last 3 years she has overseen all activities related to this accredited, peer-taught, academic success seminar for new students. LeAnne has instituted a complete overhaul of course content focusing on five learning outcomes: curricular skill development, cultural competency, academic planning, research and inquiry, and career exploration. She also revised and upgraded the recruitment, selection, training, and supervision of peer instructors—incorporating an enhanced interview process and improved classroom observations. In testament to her efforts, both the Washington Center and the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience have recognized and sought FIG program participation at annual meetings.

LeAnne’s efforts go far beyond First Year Programs. On the Seattle campus LeAnne is a four-year member of Professional Staff Organization board, a three year member of the Faculty Council on Student Affairs, a three year coordinator of the Black Graduation Ceremony, a two year member of the Husky Union Building (HUB) Board of Directors, and a member of the Planning Committees for the Husky Leadership Initiative and UW Parent Programming. LeAnne is also a member of the Board of Managers for the University YMCA, she is a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) region 5 Advisory Board, wife, and mother of 15 month old Jade.

LeAnne is a mentor to not only undergraduates, but to the less seasoned professionals around her. She is a steady and calm, focused presence in an event-driven office that can, at times, seem more like a three ring circus. Her analytical abilities are outstanding, allowing her to make nuanced decisions while maintaining productive relationships within her office and across campus.

While I could fill much more than 1200 words with supporting documentation highlighting LeAnne’s character and capabilities, the professional staff in First Year Programs has compiled several examples of how LeAnne’s work exemplifies the principles of the Distinguished Staff Award:

  • The creation of a respectful, diverse and collaborative work environment is extremely important to LeAnne and is demonstrated in her daily work. This commitment is demonstrated by the creation of a sustainable scholarship program for Outdoor Adventure trips. Any Pell Grant eligible student is eligible to apply for one of 8 scholarships, two scholarships are available per adventure. Each scholarship covers the entire program fee of up to $330.00.
  • LeAnne continually seeks out new and innovative campus partnerships. Lincoln Johnson, Associate Vice President for Student Life and HUB Director, describes this effort in the following way: “The term “collaboration” can be overused, but in the case of LeAnne, that certainly isn’t the case. She is always ready and able to pitch in to support whatever program or activity is underway. And she does so with great ease. Student leaders and colleagues count on her attention to detail, excellence, and resourcefulness.” Scott Freeman, Principal Lecturer, Biology, underscores this theme well when he says, “The thing that impresses me about LeAnne, and that makes me seek her out as a collaborator, is her commitment to defining and creating the Husky Experience—communicating to first-year students that they are here to create themselves: to take on challenges,
    overcome obstacles, grow, and make an impact. She also combines this big-picture vision thing with good old competence, organization, and humor”.
  • LeAnne is highly regarded as role model. Her professional philosophy is grounded in service to those around her and she is quick to offer her experience, knowledge, and support to everyone she encounters each day. She adeptly offers both challenge and support to those around her, helping them work through and learn from difficult experiences, and helping turn their goals into realities. Mayowa Aina, a sophomore Orientation Leader, shares these thoughts, “LeAnne exemplifies professionalism and excellence—she settles for nothing less. Working with her this past summer, she not only taught me how to work efficiently and productively but she led by example. She gave credit where credit was due, was always respectful of my time, and had no trouble navigating different learning and working styles. I always loved working with LeAnne because she was consistent in her approach and succeeded in providing an enjoyable experience to everyone she interacted with.”
  • The professional staff in First Year Programs summarizes LeAnne’s qualifications for this honor in the following way: LeAnne offers a unique combination of compassion and dependability—representing both “process” and “product” in her work. Her compassion draws people, engages them as partners, and sustains rich and productive relationships and partnerships. While her dependability produces lasting and sustainable program improvements. LeAnne accurately evaluates situations and cuts through red tape in order to deliver consistent, on-time, high quality programs and services for FYP, UAA, and the University of Washington.

LeAnne deservingly has many supporters in this nomination. She is a dedicated university staff member whose efforts—and results—set her apart from her peers. She is a rising campus administrator with the leadership ability to effect change on our campus and—through her external responsibilities—nationally. I am convinced that LeAnne embodies the principles of campus honor and is deserving of your serious consideration. Perhaps a comment by Lincoln Johnson encapsulates LeAnne’s candidacy best “our University shines more brightly because of LeAnne and honoring her with the Distinguished Staff Award will only allow us to shine even more brightly.”

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