Dara Newton

President's Award
University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley

Our first recipient was such an obvious choice that I'm certain if Vegas was laying odds on the 2020 President's Award Winner, everyone would have put their money on this person. I have known this individual for 23 years, meeting her for the first time when I first hit the road as a recruiter. She is one of those people that when I think of TACRAO, I think of her. She has a love and a dedication for this organization like no other. In 2007 she was a member of the TACRAO LAC as the program chair where she finally transitioned TACRAO away from those huge notebooks to a more space-friendly bound program booklet.

She most recently served TACRAO with distinction completing two years as the Vice President for Admissions.

But when TACRAO plucked the High School Relations chair last year to serve on Exec, I came calling to this individual to beg her to takeover as chair of the High School Relations committee because I didn't want us to lose that momentum and stability the previous chair had started.

So she agreed. And then COVID hit. And as late as July and August, the ISD's in Texas still had no idea if and when they would even have students on campus, much less if they would be hosting recruiting fairs. The High School Relations committee was in limbo as to what to do because there were so many mixed messages and uncertainties from the high schools all across the state.

With very little time to spare, she helped pivot TACRAO from its coordination of traditional recruiting weeks to putting together a virtual recruiting season. She reviewed several software platforms to consider, chose the one that gave us the most functionality and flexibility, and then hounded Exec to quickly make a decision to purchase it so she and her committee could get to work... because time was of the essence.

She worked tirelessly nights and weekends to get a schedule set-up, to get the platform created, and to communicate to all our schools on when and how to get signed up to participate. On top of all of that, however, she also had to deal with hundreds of emails, some that were rude and harassing because some schools waited until the last minute to act and didn't give her understanding and consideration that she was doing all of this as a volunteer on top of her actual day job. In spite of that, she continued to work diligently each week to make sure we had the most up-to-date schedule posted to the TACRAO website for our members and subscribers to utilize. She did such an excellent job that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board wanted to emulate what she did for some fairs they wanted to host.

In short, if it hadn't been for this person, there would not have been a recruiting season in Texas this year. Every college, university, and high school is indebted to her.

And that is why the first President's Award for 2020 is presented to Dara Newton from the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley. On behalf of the entire State of Texas, we thank you.