VERMILLION, S.D. -- Erin Contreras, advisor in the USD Academic Advising Center, is the 2008 recipient of the John R. Williams Award. Presented annually by the Native American Recruitment & Retention Committee, this award is presented to an individual, staff or program in recognition of significant contributions to American Indian students at The U.
"Without question, she does that well," stated Kurt Hackemer, Ph.D., professor of history and associate dean for academics in the College of Arts and Sciences, and acting chairperson of the Institute of American Indian Studies. "However, that is not what our students bring up when they talk about Erin. Instead, they focus on her willingness to go the extra mile for them, making sure that they are taken care of not only academically, but also in every facet of their lives both at USD and back at home, no matter where that might be."
Prior to her current role as academic advisor, Contreras worked for the USD Nursing Department and the USD Trio programs. As an advisor, Contreras serves as a liaison between the Academic Advising Center and the Department of American Indian Studies working with American Indian Studies majors, who are in their first year on campus making sure they understand USD’s curriculum and how it fits into their larger academic plan. An advisor for Social Work, Alcohol and Drug Studies majors at The U, Contreras also works part-time in the financial aid office. "Unofficially, Erin does so much more," explained Lucky Huber, women’s track and field head coach and director of the Academic Advising Center at USD. "Everyday at least one student drops by Erin’s cubicle in Academic Advising to talk with her about classes, to be sure, but also about their successes and troubles." The John R. Williams Award was established in 2002 to honor the many contributions made by Williams to USD throughout the years. Williams, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, earned a doctorate in education from The U in 1975. While at USD, Williams developed, directed and taught in the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Studies Department from 1973 until his death in September 2001.
A photograph of Contreras is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/ErinContreras.jpg.