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VP Will Simpkins receives NASPA award for leadership

The award recognizes collaborative, effective and innovative student affairs officers.

By Lindsey Coulter

November 10, 2020

Will SimpkinsWill Simpkins, Ed.D., vice president for Student Affairs, is the 2020 recipient of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ (NASPA) James Rhatigan Outstanding Dean Award for Region IV-West. Simpkins accepted the award on Nov. 2 via a Zoom call with NASPA colleagues.

The award recognizes collaborative, effective and inspirational lead student affairs officers who are strategic and innovative in providing programs and services to students and have a high level of competency in developing staff. Awardees must also demonstrate leadership in campus and community affairs and offer significant contributions to student affairs and higher education literature.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the MSU Denver colleagues who nominated me for this award,” said Simpkins. “While I will cherish the recognition, because it comes from campus colleagues, I strongly believe that our success as a University is due to our clear mission and values, our work toward living inclusive leadership, and the hundreds of dedicated staff and faculty who show up for our students each and every day.  I look forward to continuing to amplify their work for many years to come.”

In his letter of recommendation, Russell Noles, vice chair of the MSU Denver Board of Trustees, wrote, “Under Will's leadership, staff within the division of Student Affairs are actively mobilized to transform institutional policies, practices and structures to ensure that we not only enroll diverse students; but also (that we embody) equity, inclusion and justice so that our BIPOC students experience an institution that affirms their identity and supports them as they pursue their educational goals.”

Several of Simpkins’ MSU Denver colleagues also noted his efforts to keep students engaged and on track throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Adrienne Martinez, associate vice president for Classroom to Career Initiatives; Braelin Pantel, Ph.D., associate vice president for Student Engagement and Wellness/Dean of Students; Thuy Phan, executive assistant to the vice president for Student Affairs; Mary Sauceda, associate vice president for Enrollment Management; and Emily Willan, director of Operations and Planning for Student Affairs wrote:

“As COVID-19 crept onto our radar … Dr. Simpkins demonstrated how adept he is at caring for his team. In those early days, he championed the constructs of grace and flexibility for our institution and has assuredly shaped how we, as a University, have responded to this crisis. He has consistently centered the experiences of the staff and faculty doing the work to educate and support students, along with the student experience. He has shown up as a human, over a vice president, to empathize, sympathize, and commiserate with so many of us at times.”

Simpkins’ MSU Denver colleagues also noted his leadership in addressing institutional and systemic racism, his innovation in the areas of enrollment and recruitment, and his dedication to ensuring more equitable outcomes for low-income, first-generation students and students of color, adding: “He’s an activator who inspires those with whom he works to push their own limits to attain new possibilities.”

Topics: Academics, Award, Excellence, Student Affairs

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