May 28, 2020

Wes Hillyard: Success Story

Wes Hillyard '05 serves as the director of Academic Services. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Wes Hillyard ’05 serves as the director of Academic Services. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

One of Wes Hillyard’s most meaningful Mary Washington memories was his commencement ceremony in 2005. Dressed in cap and gown, processing down Campus Walk behind the Eagle Pipe Band, he was cheered on by faculty, staff and administrators, as well as friends and family, who had all helped him reach his goals.

He’d experience that same milestone a decade later – but this time, from the perspective of an administrator.

“I love how the entire University community turns out for Honor Convocation and Eagle Gathering at the start of our students’ time here, and comes together again when they graduate,” said Hillyard, who directs UMW’s Office of Academic Services.

His team of professional and faculty advisors guides undergraduates as they navigate their college careers. It’s a joy, he said, to watch students, especially those who struggled academically or had difficulty choosing a major, finally earn their diplomas.

“Through hard work, commitment and collaboration among many colleagues,” Hillyard said, “we’re able to help those students re-chart their course and ultimately attain degrees.”

His own positive experiences with UMW faculty advisors led him to pursue a master’s degree in student affairs administration at the University of Virginia. He held jobs at James Madison University and Northern Virginia Community College before returning to Mary Washington in 2015.

He enjoys meeting with students face-to-face, Hillyard said, but was impressed by his department’s transition to virtual advising appointments via Zoom and the EAB Navigate system this spring.

With commencement moving to fall, this semester didn’t bring the same sense of closure, said Hillyard, who’s on track to earn a doctorate from VCU next May.

“But I think it will be even more meaningful when we’ve had time to reflect and really appreciate the opportunity to come together and celebrate.”

 

The Academic Services team prefers advising students face-to-face, but Hillyard said that using Zoom and the EAB Navigate system has worked well this semester. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

The Academic Services team prefers advising students face-to-face, but Hillyard said that using Zoom and the EAB Navigate system has worked well this semester. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Q: How many students took advantage of UMW’s alternative grading scale this spring?
A: They were able to make the switch themselves through Banner, and 15 percent of all spring course registrations were in the Credit/Pass/No Credit grade mode, according to the Office of the Registrar. 

Q: What were some of your favorite Mary Washington traditions as a student?
A: Rocktoberfest and Devil Goat Day. I had a blast competing in an obstacle course against my marketing professor!  

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A: Collaborating with colleagues across the University to identify the best ways to support our students. 

Q: The most challenging?
A: UMW is committed to helping all students succeed; however, it cannot be a one-sided process. When students are unwilling to work toward their success, it can be very difficult. 

Q: What do you miss most about being on campus?
A: My colleagues and students who make Mary Washington such a great community. My wife and I have taken our kids there to ride their bikes since we live nearby. It’s still beautiful, but eerily quiet. 

Q: What do you do when you aren’t working?
A: Spend lots of time with my family – our 5- and 2- year-old keep us busy. We also love amusement parks and look forward to going once the quarantine is over.   

Q: What’s your motto?
A: “If you can dream it, you can do it!” – Walt Disney