The La Follette School’s David Wright-Racette received the Student Personnel Association (SPA) Frontline Award for his efforts as the school’s student services associate on April 25. Mo O’Connor, Wright-Racette’s supervisor, coordinated his nomination and had the pleasure of presenting his award at the 39th Annual SPA Awards Luncheon in front of numerous La Follette School colleagues and approximately 250 higher education professionals in Madison.
Day to day, Wright-Racette manages administrative aspects of the school’s student services office, which serves 120 graduate students, 22 faculty, and 11 staff members. Welcoming and full of knowledge about the La Follette School and UW–Madison, he is a wonderful first point of contact for students, faculty, and staff, especially when they are new to the La Follette community, O’Connor said.
O’Connor attributes her successful transition as the school’s news admissions and advising coordinator to Wright-Racette serving as her first teacher nearly three summers ago. Beyond being generous with his time and talents, Wright-Racette is one of the kindest and most conscientious people Katie Lorenze (MIPA ’14) has had the privilege of working with. Lorenze is the school’s department administrator and career services coordinator.
Colleagues also noted Wright-Racette’s ability to be incredibly efficient in his work. Doing so allows him to bring his creativity, excellent problem-solving skills, and leadership to various projects outside his standard job duties. For example, Associate Director Steve Kulig (MPA ’14) said Wright-Racette plays the indispensable role of office safety valve, jumping in and assisting with special projects, often with little direction and always with a smile on his face.
University Relations Specialist Lisa Hildebrand said Wright-Racette quickly established himself as a team player who thrives on new challenges. “When I needed help, David embraced the opportunity to expand his writing skills by showcasing our students’ unique stories on the La Follette School website,” she said.
In her nomination, O’Connor reflected on how Wright-Racette supports her work on the school’s admissions and advising efforts over the course of an academic year, noting that they have different (and sometimes competing) work flow peaks and valleys. “When I tell David that he brings the dynamic to our duo, I mean it,” she said. “The La Follette School could not provide such a positive and high-quality experience for the students we serve without him.”
Currently, Wright-Racette is creating policies, practices, and programming for the La Follette School’s new Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy. “From the program approval process to the new students we’ll welcome next fall, David has been the primary contractor building this new academic offering from the ground up,” O’Connor acknowledged.
Self-effacing, gracious, and polite, Wright-Racette likes to joke that he does an “adequate” job, but the truth is, he is exceptional in his role as a frontline student services professional, O’Connor said.
Wright-Racette earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UW–Madison in 2014. As an undergraduate, he interned for two years in the Wisconsin State Senate and after graduation he joined Wisconsin Farmers Union as its policy organizer. He joined the La Follette School in February 2017.
SPA is a Madison-area association of current and aspiring higher education professionals that facilitates collaboration and networking to support one another and enhance the student experience. For more than 60 years, SPA has provided higher education professionals with a local, affordable professional development home. Founded by UW–Madison staff members, SPA continues to grow, develop, and adapt to a changing profession.
The Frontline Award is one of only three SPA awards with nominees from across the Madison area. It honors a staff member who positively influences students’ perceptions of the university. Nominees must demonstrate commitment to serving students on a day-in and day-out basis in a professional and caring manner. The recipient is either the first person a student meets in offices, or a person who works “behind the scenes” in the successful operation of a program or unit.