The University of Utah Academic and Student Affairs District Staff Excellence Awards honored four staff members: Emily Bennett, Erin Worwood, Jose Rojas, and Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Advisor Joy Velarde, August 21, 2017, at the Thomas S. Monson Center. Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Ruth Watkins (pictured left of Velarde with Mascaro on the right) welcomed those in attendance noting that this prestigious award recognizes superior performance specifically related to the University’s four Major Strategic Goals:

  1. Promote Student Success to Transform Lives
  2. Develop & Transfer new Knowledge
  3. Engage Communities to Improve Health & Quality of Life
  4. Ensure Long-Term Viability of the University

Magnifying the U’s Strategic Goals is a part of Velarde’s day-to-day accomplishments. She was recognized with the 2017 Academic and Student Affairs Staff Excellence Award for Excellence in Service and Commitment to the University of Utah. This is particularly noteworthy considering there are about 13,000 full-time staff on campus.

A current mechanical engineering senior writes, “Joy goes above and beyond the call of duty of an academic advisor. She creates events that bring students together and make them feel welcomed. In a major where so much time is spent in front of the computer or with your nose buried in a pile of equations, Joy helps students to look up every now and then and feel more human. Her acts of kindness have helped me and other students to stay afloat when school seems overwhelming.”

Joy 600Velarde keeps communication lines open with students through a department newsletter and the website. Understanding the need to improve the student experience, she works tirelessly to identify scheduling and changes to the General Catalog as well as fixes articulation issues that complicate the transfer process.

High impact programs to her credit include:

  • Peer mentoring program that pairs peer mentors with incoming students – both first-year students and transfer students – with a goal of acclimating new students to a new and unfamiliar department home.
  • The creation of a departmental free tutoring program.
  • Organizing several activities each academic year to promote community in the department, i.e., department BBQ, hot chocolate social, brown bag lunches, and a commencement luncheon for graduates and their families.
  • Helping to organize monthly lunches with female role models from academia and industry, as well as an Engineering Equity luncheon.

Debbie speaking 600Mechanical Engineering director over the Undergraduate Program and Associate Professor – Lecturer, Debra Mascaro says, “Joy is well deserving of this award. She proactively advises a large number of students and initiates program and advising improvements. Mechanical Engineering students benefit not only from her excellent day-to-day advising but also from her commitment to improving processes and policies to make it easier for them to succeed in the ME program and beyond. The department as a whole also benefits from Joy’s desire and ability to organize events that promote community. She is a perfect example of how advisors can have a positive impact with both individual students and the department as a whole.”

Joy Katie Debbie
Mechanical Engineering academic advisors Joy Velarde and Katie Barnard with program director Dr. Debra Mascaro on the right.