Graduate Assistant of the Year Award

Congratulations to the 2020-2021 Graduate Assistant of the Year recipient, Ricardo Belizaire!

 

Ricky's nominators had the following to say:

“Ricky has been a crucial member of the LGBTRC team and has made a strong impact on the department of Student Affairs. Ricky has helped navigate difficult and stressful situations during a transitional period in staffing. He provided stability and support whenever necessary and took on additional responsibilities to ensure the office ran smoothly. Ricky is always on time and overly prepared for any outcome of any situation. Ricky continuously looks for opportunities for educational growth, inclusive community building and faculty/staff engagement with all students. Whenever possible, Ricky has accepted opportunities to speak to other organizations and units on behalf of the LGBTRC and also the UGA graduate school programs. He is an ideal ambassador for the LGBTRC and truly exemplifies what a success means in this position. Also, Ricky has done such an outstanding job, that he recently was photographed for the Student Spotlight series for UGA Today.”

 

“Ricky is everything I could possibly hope for in a graduate assistant, especially when I was first jumping into this position. Ricky's first year of graduate school involved some difficulty with staffing in the Center, and Ricky stepped up in a way that was crucial to the success of the Center. From what I have heard, Ricky's ability to plan programming, become comfortable with supporting students in an identity-based space, and make connections on campus without a full-time supervisor was incredibly impressive.

When I joined the Center, I could immediately tell that Ricky was as good, if not better, than most entry-level fulltime student affairs professionals I know. Ricky was running the ambassador program, developing and implementing high-level workshops, coming up with innovative programming like Qmmunity Wednesdays, and planning the Fall calendar all on his own. Ricky, as much as anyone, helped me to get acquainted and comfortable with the Center and feel supported in my first few months.

Ricky is the kind of graduate student that I know will produce excellent work even if I never checked in. I absolutely love working with Ricky, because, as much as I get to help him develop as a graduate student, talk out his stress, and look forward into finding his first full time position, I  know that he is going to help me as well. Ricky's approach to programming is creative and innovative, and brainstorming sessions with him about how best we can guide the Center forward are the highlights of my week. Ricky is extremely reliable to the point that I sometimes wonder if he's ten years older than he claims.

In addition to his great work at the Center, Ricky has found many ways to pursue professional development as a graduate student. Ricky worked on his own to create an internship with Student Transitions, and through that, is now writing a book chapter with Donald Coleman. Ricky's dedication to putting what he's learning in his courses and assistantship into practice is admirable.

Ricky has great working relationships with all of us in the Center, but his relationship-building with students is to be admired as well. Ricky was the strong and consistent presence needed in the ambassador program during his first year, and he has developed a strong group of students who trust him, confide in him, and would volunteer to help him with anything at the drop of a hat. Ricky has managed his assistantship, coursework, internships, Ricky has served as the advisor of both Grad Pride and PRISM. Ricky has also served on the executive board of CSAAGA. Ricky's dedication to professional development and helping in any way he can is astounding. I have been working in student affairs for 4 years, and I can say with confidence that I have learned from Ricky as much as I hope he has learned from me.”

 

“Ricky’s time with the LGBT Resource Center is one that has involved so many opportunities wherein he has clearly demonstrated being deserving of recognition as the Graduate Assistant of the Year for the Division of Student Affairs.

To say that Ricky has been exemplary at fulling the responsibilities of his position feels like an understatement to the manner in which he has continuously contributed to the LGBT Resource Center and the work of the Division. He consistently exceeds the expectations for his duties, brings innovative ideas to the office, and provides tremendous support to the students at the University of Georgia. Throughout his time with the LGBT Resource Center, Ricky has single handedly helped to sustain several spaces for students to find connection and belonging, e.g. PRISM and Grad Pride. His passion for supporting students has allowed for these groups to have continued in productive ways during his tenure as the graduate assistant. He has also helped to revitalize the initiatives being offered through the Center. Whether it be through formal programs, informal conversations, or collaborating with other units across campus to create content specific opportunities, Ricky has continuously shown himself to be a student centered professional committed to student success.

Furthermore, Ricky’s time has involved some non-traditional experiences that he had navigated with resiliency, focus, and grace. Over the course of his almost two years with the Center, Ricky has had four supervisors because of various staffing realities in the Center. At every turn, Ricky has shown himself to be a tremendous team player that is continuously focused on the success of the unit and the students the Center works to support. At every turn, he has been focused on how to support this work, ensure the Center is engaged at the divisional level, and that he always prioritized the needs of students. Ricky’s experience with the Center has involved helping to onboard new supervisors, laying the foundation for the future of the Ambassador program, and helping to push the Center forward in the ways we engage with students.

When the pandemic caused such a tumultuous pivot, Ricky stepped right up and was ready to work. He was a critical part of keeping the resources of the Center moving forward and ensuring students knew there was support for them from the Center via social media. He dove right in to thinking through how to plan programs, what virtual community could look like, and reaching out to students to see what their immediate needs were. He developed ways in which the Ambassadors could be pulled together as a cohort, how to connect them with divisional leaders, and ways for their work, as well as their learning, to continue.

I think the most telling part is the way that Ricky continually carries himself with such an aura of humility. In all the ways that I could continue to sing Ricky’s praises one of the most telling aspects of his style is that he never makes decisions with his needs at the core, he continually leads from a spirit of service and seeking to ensure students have a positive experience during their time at the university. Ricky serves as the preeminent embodiment of what it means to be a student centered practitioner.

As I look back over Ricky’s time [here], I find myself in awe of all the ways he has managed to contribute to this work. He has been able to engage this work is ways and at depths not usually seen until someone has amassed multiple years of full-time, professional work. Even more noticeably, I can confidently say that Ricky has had a hand in helping shape each success the Center has had during his time here. Whether through direct actions or indirect contributions, Ricky’s time with the Center has left an indelible mark that will continue to support UGA students for years to come.”

 


Recipient: Individual

Is there a graduate assistant in your department that was crucial to achieving your goals this year? Have a classmate that you feel should be recognized for their work in their assistantship?

This award recognizes a UGA Student Affairs graduate assistant who has consistently exceeded the responsibilities of their position in a manner that promotes the success, mission, and goals of the Division.

Nominations will be evaluated according to one or more of the following criteria:

  • Performing job responsibilities in an exemplary manner
  • Seeking additional opportunities to engage within the Division outside of regular position responsibilities through volunteering for and/or participating in initiatives hosted by various departments or the Division
  • Positively impacting, engaging, and/or supporting the Division and UGA community
  • Contributing to their field through conference presentations, digital/print publications, or a volunteer role
  • Nominee serves as a graduate assistant in UGA Student Affairs at time of nomination

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