upc coordinator inspired by involvement

By Ryan Joy

After graduating from Colorado State University with a liberal arts degree emphasizing in ethnic and women’s studies, Ria Vigil was sure she wanted to attend law school. But after several months of working as a legal aid at a law firm, she realized that being a lawyer was not in the cards for her.

UPC works hard to bring Boys Like Girls to campus

Ria Vigil
Ria Vigil, who grew up in Pueblo and graduated from Colorado State, is UNC's UPC coordinator. Photo by Ryan Joy.

Instead, Vigil is now the coordinator for the University Program Council at the University of Northern Colorado. The UPC is a student-run organization that brings programming to campus to educate and entertain students. The UPC is funded with student fee money.

Vigil was hired in August when the position of Greek life/UPC coordinator was split into two different jobs.

When Evan Welch took over as the director of Student Activities in the summer of 2008, he decided to restructure the position of Greek life/UPC coordinator into two different jobs to prevent a stressful working environment for someone.

“Here we had one individual doing both jobs. I was in that position and realized how much of an incredibly high burnout rate was going to exist with that position,” Welch said.

The result of this restructuring was a search for a person to fill the UPC coordinator position. Of 62 qualified candidates, Welch found the right fit in Vigil.

“She really connected well with the students during the interview process, which was interesting because Ria, admittedly, can come across as…intense,” Welch said.

As the UPC coordinator, Vigil works as the adviser to the council, which consists of six student coordinators.

“I am their supervisor, but I am also their adviser,” Vigil said. “I supervise their day-in-day-out activities, but I don’t tell them what to do in regards to programming. I advise them and direct them though the process.”

So far, the students that she oversees have enjoyed working with her.

“Ria is fun to work with,” said Davey Nawrocki, arts and entertainment coordinator for UPC. “She is really student oriented and pretty much lets us run the show.”

Vigil came to where she is now via an interesting path. She is a first-generation college graduate and was a non-traditional student during her undergraduate coursework.

“After high school I wasn’t really expected to attend college,” Vigil said.

Because she felt she wasn’t really ready to attend college, Vigil entered the workforce. She spent a few years in Colorado and California working in the non-profit sector, but found that without a degree, it was increasingly difficult to move up.

Vigil moved back to her hometown of Pueblo and enrolled in junior college. She later transferred to Colorado State University to finish her degree. At first she planned on attending law school but found that was not what she was meant to do. Vigil needed another plan.

“I was thinking about what I was doing when I was most happy and I realized that it was my involvement as a student leader,” Vigil said. “It’s not like a job. It’s fun, you are engaged, you like it, you feel like you’re making a difference.”

  Ria Vigil
Position UPC coordinator
Degrees Bachelor's and master's from Colorado State
Hometown Pueblo
Hobbies Cycling, gardening, spending time with family

Vigil comes to UNC as a May 2009 graduate of the Student Affairs in Higher Education masters program at CSU. This program trains people to work as student support staff at colleges and universities.

As the first person in the position she now holds, Vigil has been given free rein to make the job hers.

“I want the person’s goals to match up with what they want to do,” Welch said.

Vigil has definitely set some lofty goals for herself and the position that she holds. “I want UPC to be a well-oiled machine so that it runs efficiently and effectively,” Vigil said.

So far, Vigil has made an impression on students and her peers in student activities.

“Ria is a big picture thinker,” Welch said. “I have been really happy with her so far.”