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Lander Student Named Top Graduating Woman at UW

April 25, 2014
Woman smiling
Melanie Vigil of Lander received the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri Award as the University of Wyoming's outstanding graduating woman. (UW Photo)

Melanie Vigil, who will graduate in May with a double major in gender and women's studies and global and area studies, is the recipient of the Rosemarie Martha Spitaleri Award as the University of Wyoming's outstanding graduating woman.

The award, established in 1964, recognizes Vigil for exhibiting the finest leadership, academic integrity and citizenship qualities. Patrick Rodgers of Casper received the Tobin Award, honoring the outstanding graduating man.

Vigil is the daughter of Rubel and Chris Vigil of Lander. Her major focuses on issues of human rights, and she frequently does volunteer work on campus, in Laramie and around the state. She has been called a “gifted student and community and campus leader.”

With an endorsement from the UW Honors Program,  her achievements as an outstanding student were acknowledged by her nomination for the Wyoming Woman Distinction Award;  induction to the International Studies Honor Society; and being named to either the President’s Honor Roll (4.0 GPA) or Dean’s Honor Roll every semester she attended UW.

As an aide to Albany County Rep. Cathy Connolly during the recent state legislative session, Vigil was a liaison for the representative’s social bills, including marriage equality, domestic partnerships and employment nondiscrimination. One of her shining moments at UW, she says, was to organize students on campus to call their representatives and ask them to support Connolly’s legislation.

“Working at the Legislature has truly been life changing; it has made me realize that each individual has a voice. I am very passionate about spreading this message to my fellow students and peers,” Vigil says. “I strongly advocate for more people of color and women to get involved in the Wyoming political process, and look forward to recruiting more students into the legislative internship program.”

Those strong qualities are why Connolly, director of the UW Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, selected Vigil as a legislative aide.

“She was responsible for the difficult task of organizing the UW student presence for two emotionally charged bills -- the anti-human trafficking bill and the pro-gay rights bills -- both of which required her to train students to testify and lobby rather than to storm the chambers,” Connolly says. “She excelled and made the individuals and groups involved feel not only knowledgeable of the process and how to achieve success, but also to feel that they were valued members of the process.”

Vigil also volunteered in several student organizations, and is involved in the McNair Scholars Program, which encourages underrepresented students to seek higher education degrees; she plans to enroll in graduate school at UW. Her on-campus, community and state work make her want to succeed, says another nominator.

“Melanie personifies what an outstanding graduate should be. She is a passionate, responsible, intelligent, motivated, caring leader who has made me proud and will continue to make UW proud for years to come,” says Brian Romero, Multicultural Affairs Office project coordinator.

Vigil says she will use her UW education and volunteer work as a stepping stone to the next phase of her career.

“These past four years have allowed me to grow as a professional and as a person, and I can’t wait to continue my education at UW,” she says. “Through being involved in my university, community and state, I’ve learned that engaging oneself in their surroundings is the recipe for success, both personally, academically and professionally.”


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