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Northwest recognized Cayla Vertreese Friday as its Student Employee of the Year as well as the recipient of Missouri's Student Employee of the Year award. Left to right are Paula McLain, Northwest’s student employment coordinator; Vertreese; and Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Northwest recognized Cayla Vertreese Friday as its Student Employee of the Year as well as the recipient of Missouri's Student Employee of the Year award. Left to right are Paula McLain, Northwest’s student employment coordinator; Vertreese; and Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

April 16, 2021

Vertreese is Northwest, Missouri Student Employee of the Year


Northwest Missouri State University this week honored Cayla Vertreese as its Student Employee of the Year and announced she also is the state of Missouri’s Student Employee of the Year, making her the 10th Northwest student since 1999 to receive the dual honors.

The Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators sponsors the state recognition. In addition to receiving a crystal trophy and certificate from Northwest, she received a certificate and a $50 check from the state organization.

Vertreese, a senior human services major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, joined the Office of Student Affairs as a student employee prior to her freshman year, and the opportunity quickly laid a foundation for her future contributions as a student on the Northwest campus. While the office serves as a hub for the residential life, auxiliary services and student affairs units, she developed herself as versatile office assistant and honed her skills in office operations, customer service, critical thinking and creativity in approaching varied issues.

In nominating Vertreese for the recognition, Scott Shields, Northwest’s assistant director of auxiliary services and operations, praised her as a role model who has left an impact on the office’s staff and students alike.

“She is actively role modeling to our students what it means to be the kind of leader this world needs if we are to solve the divide in our country,” Shields wrote. “We see her talking with faculty, staff, and students about issues that are difficult and uncomfortable. She does it with grace, humility and an ability to listen and learn from opposing viewpoints.”

In addition to her proficiency in oral and written communication, the office staff have relied on her to train other student employees joining the office. Supervisors noted she has a knack for seeing “the big picture” and the ways that working as a team results in a more effective and efficient work environment.

“Cayla has a way of making people feel comfortable when they talk with her,” Shields wrote. “She is professional and confident in her knowledge, while also showing a great amount of compassion and empathy. This combination makes students, parents and employees alike feel that they are being taken care of in the best way possible. At times in this position there are difficult conversations and upset customers, and Cayla is able to handle both of these situations. She goes beyond to not only answer the question at hand but offer explanation and options as to ways that the current issue can be resolved.”

The nomination added, “Her passion to make a difference is obvious and contagious and her attitude improves the overall office environment when it comes to diversity. Cayla treats everyone that she comes into contact with at work with the utmost respect, compassion and empathy. She makes sure that all students feel comfortable.” 

In addition to her work as a student employee, Vertreese founded Active Minds, a student organization dedicated to mental health awareness. She has served as a multicultural representative with Student Senate, as a peer advisor and as a student representative on multiple hiring committees. Last month, she was recognized as Northwest’s Lonnae Young Influential Student Award recipient.

“This job presented a lot of great networking opportunities, first and foremost,” she said. “I had the opportunity to meet so many different people throughout the University, and I feel like that really contributed to my ability to succeed here, just because it got my foot in the door to different places.”

Northwest’s internationally benchmarked student employment program offers students about 1,200 opportunities to build their résumés in nearly every office on campus. Paula McLain, Northwest’s student employment coordinator, said the student employment program provides as many opportunities for the University’s full-time employees to learn and develop skills as it does for students.

“This is a great opportunity to be involved in mentoring and helping develop students and prepare them for their careers,” McLain said Friday during a ceremony in the J.W. Jones Student Union to recognize Vertreese. “We learn a lot from our students. It’s a great opportunity to learn alongside the students and understand the things that they’re experiencing and to help them get through the processes of graduating. It’s a great partnership, and you’re (Vertreese) the bridge of the gap between our customers and who we’re serving.”

This summer, Vertreese will complete her coursework to earn her bachelor’s degree in human services. With a passion for mental health and diversity and inclusion, she is relocating in May to Arizona to begin her career with Mindfulness First, a nonprofit organization that assists schools, businesses and communities with developing practices centered on trauma-informed, mindfulness-based social and emotional learning. Additionally, she will work as a program assistant with All Voices Consulting, which offers services to support equity and inclusion in society.


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704