Walstad Awarded National Student Advocate Award

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

HELENA - Carroll College is pleased to announce that Annette Walstad, Director of the Saints Success Center, Academic Support and Advising, is a recipient of the Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate Award. For more than 30 years, the award has honored college faculty, administrators, staff, and students for their outstanding work on behalf of first-year students and for the impact their efforts have on the students and culture of their institutions. Annette is one of just ten recipients chosen from 93 nominations from across the country to receive this distinction from the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

“Carroll would not be able to retain its standing as a rigorous private liberal arts college in the tradition of the Catholic faith and its solid retention rates without the services provided by our academic support staff.  Annette’s leadership, willingness to go above and beyond and genuine love for each and every student are central to this success,” said Cathy Day, Carroll College Vice President of Academic Affairs.

“We at Carroll believe that being present to each student as they enter our doors, learning who they are, challenging them to grow and walking with them to graduation is a noble vocation that has the potential to change the world. Annette changes the world one student at a time,” added Day.

A graduate of Carroll College, Annette returned to Carroll in July 2010 as the Director of Advising and co-director of Alpha Seminar, the college’s first-year experience course required of all first-year students. In July of 2018, she was appointed the Director of the Saints Success Center and oversees Academic Support and Advising, Career Services, Veteran Services, Global Education, and Testing Services. Annette also stepped in as interim vice president for Student Life for several months in the 2016-2017 academic year, and again in 2018-2019. She holds a BA from Carroll College and an M.Ed. from MSU-Bozeman.

During her tenure at Carroll, Annette has worked collaboratively and systematically to institute practices, services and mechanisms which provide Carroll’s students with a transformative first-year experience and thus helps maintain Carroll’s healthy retention rates which average 80% over the last five years (the highest retention rate in Montana). 

It was through Annette’s vision and leadership that all of Carroll’s academic support services were consolidated under one umbrella in order to ensure that students experience a “one-stop-shop” when seeking academic support. The Saints Success Center is front and center during new student orientation and provides programming and pathways for first-year students to access these resources from the very beginning of their academic experience. 

This year’s recipients were formally recognized at the 39th Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience held February 21–24, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Upon receiving their awards, recipients were asked to share who their advocates were when they were in college.

“My first advocates were my parents who did not attend college but had this expectation for their seven children, all of whom earned a college degree,” shared Annette. “I am a typical 'first gen' student who didn't have many college-educated role models, was academically underprepared for college, changed majors five times, planned to drop out or transfer each spring, but somehow persevered. I believe my relationship with my academic advisor, Dr. Harry Smith, keep me progressing. My advisor, who had high expectations and challenged me on so many levels, also had great faith in me and was a constant source of encouragement to stretch myself. I studied abroad and completed an internship before ‘high impact practices’ were recognized as such and each profoundly impacted my life.”

“Additional advocates in my life include current and former Carroll College administrators and others such as Candie Cain, Sandy Merdinger, Jim Hardwick, and Cathy Day who allowed me to support, love, and nurture students in creative ways. Currently, I am so blessed to work with an amazing team of advocates in the Saints Success Center at Carroll College. The work Shannon, Brandy, Wes and Jake do every day for students inspires me to be better,” added Annette. 

 Learn more about the Saints Success Center at Carroll College.

 Learn more about The National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.