UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
June 5, 2023 - Ask anyone on the University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus about Kathleen Hunzer, and the response is instantaneous and consistent: She cares deeply about students and works hard to help them in as many ways as she can.
Hunzer’s sense of caring for students, and her willingness to take action to help them, has earned her not only respect across campus but an Academic Staff Excellence Award from the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents. She is one of three recipients of the honor announced earlier today.
The Board of Regents will honor this year’s award recipients at its next meeting in Milwaukee on Friday, June 9. The award recognizes exceptional service to the university and is the UW System’s highest recognition bestowed on members of its academic staff.
“I was shocked,” Hunzer, director of the UWRF Honors Program, Chancellor’s Scholars and Falcon Scholars and a first-generation college student, said of learning she was being recognized with the award. “Being nominated by peers who are also committed to student success is an honor. It is really exciting.”
In their nomination letters, Hunzer’s colleagues praised her for her dedication to students and her taking actions that benefit them. Throughout her two decades at UWRF, they said, Hunzer has worked tirelessly to improve students’ lives, improving the campus community in the process.
Hunzer has diligently advocated for underrepresented students, they said, and has helped them obtain countless opportunities through higher education.
“To that end, she has gone above and beyond in establishing programs which help students overcome life’s challenges on the path to academic and, ultimately, career and life success,” said Rick Foy, assistant chancellor for University Advancement.
Alicia Reinke-Tuthill, director of the UWRF Disability Resource Center, credited Hunzer for her creative, collaborative approach and her commitment to enacting programs that make a positive difference in students’ lives. For example, Hunzer combined with the Disability Resource Center and students to offer a student-led support group on campus and connected students with the university’s Autism Society.
“Kathleen has committed her professional career to promoting equity and inclusion in all areas of her work,” Reinke-Tuthill said.
Hunzer’s efforts on behalf of students are many. Among them is her work to launch Freddy’s Pantry which provides food and other essentials such as personal care products to students who can’t otherwise access them. Hunzer manages the pantry’s budget and schedules, trains and supervises student volunteers, and partners with the local Hunger Prevention Council to align the pantry’s services and connect with other agencies.