Monte Vista native wins WCU’s most prestigious alumni award 

Alyssa Rawinski

One of only nine recipients in 2023 

This year, Monte Vista native Alyssa Rawinski received Western Colorado University’s highest honor for graduating seniors at an awards ceremony Friday, May 5. As one of only nine recipients of the 2023 Alumni Award for Excellence, Rawinski will join the ranks of some of Western’s most distinguished alumni and be remembered for her contributions to the campus community. 

“This event truly exemplifies and celebrates the unique bond created between our faculty and students made possible by the care, dedication and inspiration our intimate classroom environment offers,” Western’s Vice President for Advancement, Mike LaPlante, said. “This connection is what makes Western truly transformative, so we take the opportunity to honor and commemorate this at the Alumni Awards for Excellence.” 

For the last 26 years, members of Western’s Alumni Advisory Council have met each spring to consider the nominations of students from nearly every department. The committee’s goal is to find the most select group of nominees, who have spent their time on campus committed to being the best version of themselves and exemplify what it means to be a Mountaineer. 

On May 6, Rawinski raduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Biology, an emphasis in Wildlife and Conservation, and a Geographic Information Systems certificate. Immediately after graduation she will work with the U.S. Forest Service as a seasonal biological technician before exploring her career options and considering graduate school. 

“Going to Western has been an incredible journey of personal and academic growth,” Rawinski said. “I am grateful for this award because it means that I have made a difference within the community I love and that I have contributed something valuable to the university that has shaped me into the person I am today.” 

Unlike the Latin honors granted on graduation day, the Alumni Award for Excellence doesn’t only reward a high GPA, although an outstanding academic record is necessary to be considered. It doesn’t just recognize a student’s willingness to put in long hours after class or go the extra mile in the pursuit of knowledge, however diligence is a key component to the selection criteria. 

While at Western, Rawinski was president of the Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society for two years in addition to spending five semesters as a Supplemental Instruction Leader for general chemistry. She played the flute in the symphonic band for two semesters was involved in campus fellowship and ministry groups including YoungLife, Christian Challenge, and Intervarsity. 

As an extension of her passion for ecology and the environment, Rawinski also worked for the campus recycling program for more than three years, was a teacher's assistant for an ecology lab as well as the Intro to GIS class. On top of all her roles on campus, she studied abroad for a semester in the fall of 2022 with the School for Field Studies Program in Tanzania, Africa.  

“The Alumni Awards for Excellence celebrates our most outstanding graduates while also recognizing those faculty and staff that inspired and motivated them,” LaPlante said. “Alyssa is a great example of the kind of student we want to honor with this award.” 

To learn more about the Alumni Awards for Excellence or about Western, visit