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Washington State University Office of the Provost

OAE Staff and Students Celebrated at DAESA Award event 2023

OAE staff, students celebrated for accomplishments at 2023 event

By Beverly Makhani
Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA)

MEDIA CONTACT: Michael Highfill, executive director, Office of Academic Engagement,

PULLMAN, Wash.– PULLMAN, Wash.—Nine staff members and students from the Washington State University Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) were spotlighted for their accomplishments at an April 13, 2023 awards event hosted by the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA), part of the provost’s office.

“We’re very proud of all of our OAE members who received special recognition at the annual celebration,” said Michael Highfill, OAE executive director and interim assistant vice provost. “Their accomplishments speak for themselves and our awardees certainly represented our office very well.”

Erin Rapone: Recipient of new division-wide honor

Rapone, OAE administrative and communications manager, was one of three persons who received the inaugural DAESA Excellence Award for exceptional performance throughout the year. Her award celebrates “not only all she does but how she does it,” said DAESA Vice Provost Bill Davis.

He continued by saying that she has been with OAE since its formation as a department, not only supporting and managing the finances and administration for its many programs, services, and resources, but essentially creating the department’s operational practices, policies and procedures from scratch. She is perfectly suited to do everything a start-up organization needs because she is skilled, talented, and multifaceted—it’s not often you find a talented artist who loves Excel, has a passion for student success, and is pursuing her MBA. She has done everything from designing OAE’s financial systems to designing the layout and aesthetic of the Commons Building’s student center.

Rapone supervises a team of administrators and communications personnel, manages OAE’s multi-million-dollar annual budget, handles the personnel administration for OAE’s staff of up to 80 people, supports the provost’s area as grants administrator and proposal reviewer, and does so much day-to-day to support OAE, DAESA, and the Provost’s Office. She advances all of OAE through fiscal, grant, and technology support and is overall a terrific source of knowledge and know-how.

Davis said she is the glue that holds OAE together and is integral to the success of its programs and teams—in addition, she is a wonderful person, friend, and colleague. The OAE leadership team depends upon her a great deal and she is not only the department’s right hand in all things administrative and fiscal, but is often a sounding board, source of insight, and voice of reason. She is a valued and important part of the OAE team, he concluded.

Josefina Galvan-Barajas: OAE Staff Excellence awardee

Galvan-Barajas, assistant director of OAE’s College Success Programs, was celebrated as “the OAE team member whose exceptional contributions of the past year have advanced student success, and who exemplifies the characteristic spirit of its community.”

Her responsibilities include leading the National Student Exchange program and the Teacher Preparation Student Support Services program, which serves future educators from limited-income households, first-generation backgrounds, and those with disabilities. She has also recently taken leadership of the Passport program, serving former foster youth and unaccompanied homeless youth across the WSU system.

Davis said she “embodies the values of the OAE Staff Excellence Award through her genuine commitment to excellence, servant leadership, and lifelong learning.”

Her “commitment and contributions have been indispensable over the past year.” During her tenure, participant engagement and achievement have risen significantly. Her implementation of a service model offering high-impact practices—including peer mentoring, a first-year transition course, a leadership development course, and experiential opportunities—has resulted in 95 percent persistence and 73 percent graduation rates.

She has helped lead the National Student Exchange—WSU’s domestic study-away program—over the past several months. Her efforts have resulted in increased student participation in the program, especially by historically excluded students.

She was described as having “the essence of a leader and a student advocate” and hailed for undertaking “her position whole-heartedly and delivering significant results going above and beyond every time.” She coordinates mission-critical programs with aplomb and inspires greatness in those around her. She truly cares about the success of the students that she serves and demonstrates that through holistic support and ceaseless advocacy. Her performance impacts the academic, financial, and emotional wellness of students without a lifeline, and the impact on their continued success cannot be overstated, Davis said.

Seven peer mentors: Inaugural recipients of CRLA certification

Galvan-Barajas was the leader in bringing for the first time CRLA (College Reading and Learning Association) International Peer Educator Training Program Certification to WSU. Going forward, this program will be led by OAE’s Laurel Schimelfenig.

Considered the gold standard of peer-support training, CRLA Peer Educator Training offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively engage and mentor their fellow Cougs, as well as support to respond to students in crisis and rigorous evaluation efforts to analyze its success. Through Galvan-Barajas’s coordination and collaborative efforts, peer educator certification is now a reality and an option for WSU peer mentors in OAE.

These OAE student peer mentors are the first in all of WSU to achieve Level One status for this certification:

  • Jonah Bates, a criminal justice and criminology major who mentors in the Veterans S-S-S program
  • Krystal Flores, a wildlife ecology and conservation major who mentors in the STEM S-S-S program
  • Ryley Griffiths, an animal science and animal management major who mentors in the Teacher Prep S-S-S program
  • Collin Helsel, a criminal justice and criminology major who mentors in the Veterans S-S-S program
  • Jasmine Payne, a psychology major and criminal justice minor who mentors in the Passport Program
  • Kaulanie Rivers, a kinesiology major who mentors in the Passport Program, and
  • Vanessa Solorzano Cardenas, a neuroscience major who mentors in the STEM S-S-S program

Davis said that these seven students collectively put in more than 70 hours of training and 270 hours of direct student engagement to guide their peers and ease their transition to college life. Their CRLA certification validates their hard work and supports the success of O-A-E programs