U of A Alumna and University Perspectives Director Named 2021 NWA Big of the Year
Kelly Westeen, director of University Perspectives and college learning for the Student Success Center, was recognized as Big of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas at its annual gala, The Big Event. The award reflects her commitment to the organization and the impact she has made in empowering and supporting her Little.
Westeen was matched with Little Sister Jada in 2017, and the two have continued their relationship to this day. Together, they have explored Northwest Arkansas, attended concerts, shared in holidays and even toured colleges in the region, since Jada will be headed to college this fall.
"I see Kelly as my actual family. I know she always looks out for me, as I do for her. She's a big part of my life. She continually encourages me and supports me chasing my dreams," Jada said.
Westeen believes in the importance of mentorship and knows the positive influence that strong female role models can have on the lives of younger generations.
"Both through my work on a college campus and in my personal experiences, I've witnessed the incredible power mentorship has in inspiring growth, confidence and achievement in mentees. And as a mentor, I've grown in so many unexpected ways, too," Westeen said. "It has been exciting to see Jada become more confident in her abilities and who she is as a person and dream big things for herself over these past four and a half years of our match. Being a Big Sister has been the greatest and most fulfilling experience of my life, and I've gained a lifelong friend and even an extended family through my involvement with the program."
Westeen earned a doctoral degree in English from the U of A in 2020. She holds both her bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Northern Michigan University. She has been employed on the U of A campus since 2005 and has served as director of University Perspectives since 2016.
As an alumna of and staff member at the university, Westeen brings leadership to the Student Success Center and across campus. She also serves on the U of A Staff Senate and has helped to coordinate numerous community events for the university.
"Kelly is a passionate and committed educator. She genuinely cares about others," said Trevor Francis, associate vice provost and director for student success. "Our team is beyond thrilled that she and Jada were recognized by Big Brothers Big Sisters this year. When Kelly talks about her time with Jada, her face just lights up. Their strong connection is a demonstration to the power of a positive mentoring relationship. Dr. Westeen is beyond deserving of being named the 2021 NWA Big of the Year."
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas's mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. You can find out more about the organization and how to be involved at https://bbbsnwa.org.
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