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Verlanic Receives Art Quinn Award


On October 9, 2012, Amy Verlanic was awarded the Art Quinn Award from the ASPIRE Region of TRIO Programs.  The Art Quinn award is the highest regional award one can receive from the association and nominations are submitted by the ASPIRE Board members that are comprised of the ASPIRE state presidents from CO, MT, WY, ND, SD and UT. The recipient shall be selected by the ASPIRE Board and typically receives a plaque.  Nominees must be an ASPIRE member, or in the case of a retiree, an ASPIRE member at the time of retirement; must have been employed in a TRIO/EOP program for 10 years or more; must have excelled in providing services and/or support to TRIO and/or ASPIRE at the institutional, state, and/or regional levels; and must have demonstrated a sincere desire to assist students beyond the general expectations of the project guidelines.

Verlanic was recognized in part because of her recent accomplishment to be voted by her peers as the first-ever Board Chair-Elect from the ASPIRE Region for the Council for Opportunity in Education, a nonprofit organization established in 1981 dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities throughout the United States. In addition to it being a first for ASPIRE, she is the youngest professional and only woman from west of the Mississippi River to have held this prestigious national office. Her charge will include representing the needs of 2,900 federally funded TRIO programs serving thousands of students seeking higher education.

President of the ASPIRE Region, Rachel Martinez from Cheyenne, WY,  presented the Art Quinn to Verlanic stating: “We can intuitively recognize leaders when we meet them.  This is easy to do. Yet while we intuitively recognize leaders whenever we meet them, it has never been easy to answer the question: What is leadership? You just know it when you see it.  When I first heard Amy speak in Salt Lake City in 2005, I knew I was in the presence of leadership. I was new to the TRIO family and I was mesmerized by her words and equally energized to get to know the work of TRIO.  I remember her ease in making it seem like I just wanted to dig into my pockets and give money to this association.  Amy said ‘It’s not about equal amounts but equal sacrifice.’ And I’ve tried to carry on that message ever since. Amy is constantly challenging her staff and those who serve with her to do better and be better. When she gets fired up, watch out.  And Amy has always inspired active change in this association.  From making those personal connections with those in her state and those at the regional and national levels, Amy strives to take TRIO beyond the walls of the institutions and students we serve to broaden TRIO’s capacity to serve more students in our communities. There is one more hat that Amy wears much more important, though, than any hat she has ever worn, and that is the hat of Mom!  Her four beautiful girls and family have been equal inspiration that give Amy so much energy to advocate for students.  As Amy has grown into her positions with ASPIRE and now with COE, her family has also grown with her.  When she was regional president, she visited her state meetings with a newborn but a few weeks old.  Her kids are just as vivacious as she is and as much a part of the ASPIRE family as anyone else. With that said Amy we want to congratulate you for putting ASPIRE as such a big part of your life.  You are wonderful and will do us right in your future work with COE. For everything that you do to build TRIO programs in your backyard, for all you do to move forward TRIO in this region and for all you do in your work in building relations at the congressional level and for your care of TRIO across all regions, we appreciate and congratulate you.”

Verlanic’s nomination from a former staff member highlighted:

  • Exceptional passion, dedication and talent in advocating for low income first generation students.
  • Leader in this effort at the campus, state, region and national level.
  • Director of the Institute for Educational Opportunities at Montana Tech, overseeing several programs that seek to provide educational opportunity to local students.
  • On the TRIO advisory council that advises the governor’s office of education on the impact of postsecondary policies on low-income and first-generation students.
  • Her recent award and implementation of the Montana Career Information Systems grant will ensure that every high school in Montana will have contact with a TRIO person at least twice a year.
  • She served as Montana ASPIRE state president from 2002-2003.
  • Provides guidance and leadership to other program personnel in regards to practices and policies and regularly networks with the senior TRIO people in the state to ensure that TRIO’s interests are being served.
  • Fosters a sense of mission and devotion to leadership within her staff.  Encourages all new employees to attend ASPIRE’s Leadership Development Institute with four people from her office elected to the state presidency as well as one ASPIRE secretary.  Her leadership and devotion to TRIO is emulated by her staff.
  • At the regional level, Amy served in a leadership capacity from 2003-2007 beginning as treasurer and ending as past president.  She is part of the LDI faculty and has been a presenter in numerous professional development workshops.  She ensures that our campus has a visible presence at all ASPIRE conferences.  She is someone who many in the region contact regularly for advice and discussion on current politics, policies and practices.  She is very much viewed as one of the exceptional leaders within ASPIRE.
  • Amy served as COE treasurer in 2008 and again in 2011-12. 

Lastly, Amy has a TRIO heart, thinks big and never says no.  She operates on the faith that there will always be a payoff in the end.  One example of this happened two summers ago on our Upward Bound trip to Portland.  One of our students had a grandparent pass away.  Her funeral was in two days in North Dakota where his parents also happened to be.  Since he couldn’t come home to Helena, they asked that we get him to his uncle in Havre which is approximately a 14 hour drive from Portland.  Amy didn’t hesitate and jumped in her car to drive this student to Havre despite my urging that she negotiate for a closer location.  She drove the student to Havre, and then drove 5 more hours to the Montana Tech campus, all in one day. This is just one small example of the dedication Amy has to her students.  The payoff for this effort came a few months later when the student gifted Amy with a necklace belonging to the deceased grandmother whose funeral she helped him attend.