College Admission Professional and School Counselor of the Year Awards

Iowa ACAC annually recognizes a High School Counselor of the Year and a College Admission Professional of the Year. These honorees are nominated by fellow admission and high school counseling professionals to recognize exemplary work with students in the college admissions field. This year's recipients will be announced at our annual spring membership meeting.

Do you know school counselors or admissions professionals who consistently provide exemplary service to students? Take time to nominate them.
Once compiled, the nominations will be sent Iowa ACAC members for voting. Only Iowa ACAC members will vote.

Admission Professional of the Year Previous Recipients

School Counselor of the Year Previous Recipients

Our 2020 Admission Professional of the Year and School Counselor of the Year nominees are below. Members, please vote via the listserv email you receive!


Jordan Cornwell - University of Northern Iowa

  • Has passion and commitment to go above and beyond to complete any task, or assist with any request that the office might get.
  • Extremely knowledgeable and personable, great listener and offers support to students during one of the most challenging times of their young lives. 
  • No task is below her. Can occasionally find her filling in as a campus tour guide, or offering golf cart rides to-and-from the parking lot (always with a smile on her face) on visit days throughout the year. 
  • Great role model for less seasoned admissions professionals and is a great asset to the UNI team.

Susan Dickinson - University of Iowa

  • Compassionate advocate for prospective students; ability to connect with many types of students with various needs at different stages in the enrollment process.
  • Brings a deep understanding of financial aid, and has the ability to articulate the often confusing lingo to students and families.
  • Manages over 30 students workers in various capacities, all the while being a mentor to those students and nurturing team member for new staff members.
  • Ability to utilize data to make strategic decision has allowed her to not only effectively recruit students in her territory, but to enhance the quality of students who've applied to the honors program.

Jesus Lizarraga - University of Northern Iowa

  • Positive energy that is contagious. Holds students' attention and keeps them engaged.
  • Always helpful whenever emailed with questions in general or about specific students.
  • Very inclusive and helps all students.
  • A very positive role model for many groups that are not always represented.

Ryan Puhrmann - Mount Mercy University

  • Conducts critical work behind the scenes that allows all admission staff to serve our students. Has made huge strides in improving operations and communications at Mt. Mercy University.
  • Has taken the lead on the implementation of Slate, which will allow the entire office to serve students more efficiently and effectively.
  • Has demonstrated a commitment to mentoring younger staff, both at MMU and at his former institution.
  • Seeks out new knowledge to improve himself and his peers, and the ways that higher education can serve students.

Marissa Simplot – University of Iowa

  • Willing to do more than just general admission visits. Did a session about nursing for several students and attended 9th grade orientation nights, gives practical advice in the college admission process.
  • Always willing to answer my questions thoroughly or point me in the right direction. My go-to person.
  • Tireless student advocate, knowledgeable professional, collaborative team member, who stays knowledgeable about current admission policies to ensure delivering the correct information to families.
  • The University of Iowa has made huge gains in the Des Moines metro due to her work with families and the rapport she has built with high school counselors.

 2020 SCHOOL COUNSELOR OF THE YEAR NOMINEES (in alphabetical order)

Sheryl Cline - Linn Mar High School

  • The voice of Iowa high school counselors. Her work with ISCA and Iowa ACAC demonstrates passion and dedication. Tireless and works hard to help school counselors help our students.
  • Models great leadership and collaboration. Does what school counselors should be doing. 
  • Her communication is helpful and very consistent.
  • Has been a constant as one of the best professionals in the state of Iowa at the high school and college arena.

Linda Hoel - Iowa City High School

  • Has served the students of Iowa City High School for fifty-four years, touching the lives of thousands of students.
  • Has continued to change with the times, as the school counseling profession has changed, and has found innovative ways to connect with admission professionals and help her students.
  • Knows her students by name, and remembers details about their lives. Proactive in reaching out to help her students, and encouraging them to challenge and improve themselves. 
  • Strong commitment to her district.

Dave Kennedy - Linn Mar High School

  • Great advocate for students at Linn Mar.
  • Deeply cares about students he works with promoting college readiness, financial aid nights, and most recently how to deal with COVID-19 and online learning. 
  • Has attended numerous college visit events to better understand college options so he can better assist students.
  • Understands the mental challenges faced during this time and has sent emails supporting students (and parents) to help them navigate the many changes ahead.

Rising Star Award

Iowa ACAC recognizes and encourages the work of admission counselors new to the profession, as well as the work of members in creating new programs to serve students in transition. Iowa ACAC wants to give state recognition to these new professionals and new programs, then complete the paperwork to nominate them for the NACAC Rising Star Award. The Rising Star Award honors individuals and programs that exemplify excellence and dedication to serving the needs of students in the transition from high school to college through Association work.

Do you have a new person on your staff who meets the NACAC Rising Star requirements? Do you know someone in Iowa ACAC who has been significantly involved in creating a new program for the Association? Submit nomination forms below.

Eligibility Categories

Individuals - Individuals receiving a Rising Star Award nomination must be voting or non-voting professional members of Iowa ACAC for no more than five years. They must be new members who are striving to make a difference within Iowa ACAC through their work in Association committees.

Programs - Programs receiving a Rising Star Award nomination must be new Iowa ACAC programs within the last five years that use nontraditional approaches to traditional challenges. The programs must be practical and replicable by other affiliates.

Rising Star Nomination Form

Michael Barron Impact Award

The Michael Barron Impact Award recognizes admissions staff whenever, and however, they might have impacted the life of a prospective student. The recognition is to be organic, arising from the student-staff relationship. This award celebrates the good that happens in the day-to-day work that we do in the name of serving students and impacting their lives.

Nomination Procedures - To nominate a member of your staff for this honor, contact Iowa ACAC Past President Mark Ash at [email protected]