Best in the state

Bianca Aspin, left, reacts to the news of her award as Anita Gille and Michael Jackson watch.

Bianca Aspin, left, reacts to the news of her award as Anita Gille and Michael Jackson watch.

A St. Scholastica junior with a passion for helping people with disabilities has been named the best student employee at the state's colleges and universities.

Bianca Aspin, 21, of Hermantown, is a student employee with the College's Center for Equal Access, which works to make sure that all resources at the school are available to everyone, regardless of disability.

Aspin's supervisors, Anita Gille, disability services administrative specialist, and Melissa Watschke, director of disability resources, said Aspin is always looking for new ways to improve the center's communications and resources to provide better outcomes for the 200 students it serves. She's shown great initiative and enthusiasm, they said.

"She was eager to learn every aspect of the Center, from daily office activities to researching various aspects of disability law or special technology," Watschke said.

Aspin's duties include working with textbook publishers to obtain e-books for students with disabilities, and administering exams. It's meaningful work, she says.

"It's a joy to work with the people I work with, and be making a difference for all of these people," Aspin said.

Gille said Aspin has a mix of great people skills, research ability and tech savvy. She's able to understand new technologies and explain them to others in a patient, understanding way, Gille said.

"Bianca's proficiency with technology tools is unrivaled," said Gille, explaining that Aspin has become proficient with the use of a SmartPen and audio software called Voice Dream and has even developed her own tutorials to make these technologies more accessible to everyone.

She started out as a volunteer notetaker her freshman year. Her quality work quickly led to a recommendation from student Michael Jackson - who utilized her note-taking services - that the access center hire her.

"She really puts a lot of effort into what she does," Jackson said. "She's one of the kindest, most hardworking people."

Gille and Watschke nominated Aspin for the St. Scholastica Student Employee of the Year Award. After winning that prize, she was automatically entered as a finalist for the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators' 2015 Student Employee of the Year award for the state of Minnesota, which she subsequently won as well.

"I'm just blown away," Aspin said upon learning about the awards. "I really want to thank Anita and Melissa for making the Center for Equal Access such a wonderful environment."

In addition to double-majoring in psychology and music and working about 10 hours a week, Aspin is an active member of St. Scholastica's Team Delta student orientation group. She plays the oboe in the St. Scholastica Concert Band and is a member of the Women's Choir, the Concert Choir, and Bella Voce on campus and the Pilgrim Congregational Church choir and Twin Ports Choral Project off campus.

"I like filling all the spaces on my calendar," she says.

Held from April 13-17, Student Employee Appreciation Week is part of a national effort to recognize the importance of the college student work experience. Any school with a Federal work-study program is eligible to participate in the Student Employee of the Year recognition process, but not all schools do. State winners are chosen by representatives from other states.