We are highlighting all of the great work that our graduate assistants perform around our campus by featuring the nominees for the 2022 Graduate Assistant of the Year Award.  This award is coordinated by the Career Center, which works with the Graduate School to pick the winner of the award.  We were so impressed by all the nominees that we are going to feature them on our blog.  Congratulations to all the nominees!

Olivia Vecchiolli, nominee for Ball State’s 2022 Graduate Assistant of Year Award

For the 2021-2022 academic year, Olivia worked as a GA in support of the Office of Disability Services.  While a GA, Olivia assisted in the student accommodation process, which includes providing individualized service to students, composed and published articles for the Disability Service blog and newsletter, and communicated services with prospective students and their families during campus preview days.  Olivia also provided administrative and programmatic support for the Alliance for Disability Awareness and assisted the director, Dr. Courtney Jarrett, with data collection, reporting and program assessment.

Dr. Jarrett said this about Olivia in her nomination letter, “The DS office is currently serving almost 3,000 students with a very small staff. Every single person that works in the office plays a critical role. Olivia’s role is to learn how to provide disability accommodations; she basically acts as the third professional staff person in our office. We interact with a lot of students, faculty, staff, parents, and visitors in various ways. Olivia is an active listener and she works hard to make sure that those who contact us get the correct information or campus referral they need. She clearly meets the NACE competencies for communication and critical thinking as she is always actively listening and communicating in clear ways so that the pertinent information is shared with the correct party. We serve a very diverse, marginalized student population and Olivia is acutely aware of these issues and treats every student equitably.”

Q and A with Oliva

What was the most valuable part of your assistantship experience?

To me, the most valuable part of my assistantship experience has been giving me real life, practical experience that goes hand-in-hand with what I am learning in my classes. Nothing is more empowering than learning something in the classroom and then, the very next day, being able to use that to frame, and explain, or even guide my decision making in certain situations. Additionally, the professional skills that I have been able to build through my work with Disability Services are adaptable and practical and will benefit me no matter where I go following graduation.

How do you think your GA assignment has helped you to grow as a professional and a student?

My position in Disability Services has taught me so much about who I would like to be as a professional, and what I want out of not only an office environment, but also expectations I should have for my future institutions that I might work for. Working with Dr. Jarrett, and all the other amazing humans in my office, has been such a rewarding experience, and they all are great role models for me. During my eight months with them thus far, they have taught me how to advocate for myself in a workspace and how to set boundaries between personal and professional life, and they instilled in me the value of being able to have fun and be vulnerable with the people you work with to build a strong foundation of trust and care. They really value me as a person first, a student and GA second—they want me to succeed and hold myself to a high quality of work in both academics and in the office and have helped me develop the tools to do that.

Is there anything else you would like to communicate about your experience as a GA?

I have been on Ball State’s campus as an undergrad and now as a graduate student for a combined six years. During those years I worked several other positions, from being an RA to being an Orientation Leader, and I can honestly say that working as a GA has been the most challenging but also the most rewarding. I was pushed as an aspiring professional in ways that I had never been before, as well as pushed as a student. But it was through those challenges that I faced that I have been able to grow, holistically, as a professional and as a person. I’m excited to take the skills and lessons I have learned in this position with me into the larger workforce, and hopefully be able to foster communities based on inclusion and compassion.

Photo of Olivia Vecchiolli at an event

Olivia (right) at a Disability Awareness Month event.