Over the course of nearly 22 years, Victoria Ibarra estimates that she’s helped about 3,000 music students on their journey from incoming freshman to graduating senior.
“I love having that interaction with students. To me, the most important thing is to see them succeed. When I see them go on to become music teachers or opera singers, it fulfills me.”
The stalwart smiling face in the Academic Services office is the College of Music’s undergraduate staff advisor. Every year, Ibarra and the other members of the advising team tirelessly manage scholarship contracts, degree audits and the advising needs of the 300 or so undergraduate music students on the CU Boulder campus.
But this year is a little different. Ibarra’s work and her impact on the college are being recognized on a campus level. In February, she received the Outstanding Senior Advisor of the Year award from the Advising Council.
“I’m elated. I’m very honored to receive this award. Not only for me but for the College of Music.”
Ibarra has been a member of the College of Music staff since May 1995. Though she directly advises the Bachelor of Arts in Music students—50 to 60 of them every year—she has face-to-face contact with each and every undergraduate music student before he or she can walk across the Grusin stage at commencement.
“For BA and transfer students, my job is to make sure that once they’re admitted, they’re making degree progress and graduating within four years,” Ibarra explains. “But there are also walk-in advisees, and every single student meets with me before they graduate.”
One of those students is Benjamin Wiebe, a music education and saxophone performance major in his junior year. Wiebe says Ibarra was one of the first people at the college with whom he had contact.
“The first experience I had before I even got to CU was talking with Victoria on the phone right after I got accepted. She answered every question I had as a new student.
“And even now, my studio professor will tell me to go talk to her if I have any questions. She runs this place.”
James Austin, associate dean for enrollment management and undergraduate studies, couldn’t agree more. He, along with faculty members Margaret Berg, Erika Eckert and William Stanley, nominated Ibarra for the award. He says her sensitivity and integrity are unwavering, as is the quality of her work.
“[Victoria] recognizes the importance of supporting students in their efforts to make degree progress, while also maintaining our institutional, programmatic and policy standards. As I noted in my nomination letter, ‘I have never known anyone so unflappable in the face of crisis or chaos, so dependable in fulfilling key job responsibilities on time and at the highest quality standard, and so adaptable in these times of changing curricula, campus or unit policies, and student demographics.’”
More than two decades of supporting music students has given Ibarra unique insight into the challenges young musicians face.
“There are so many more individual needs for a music major: coordinating lessons, finding the right ensemble, making progress in the piano requirements and so on. Students see an advisor every semester until they graduate, which is only required by the College of Music.”
Says senior vocal performance major Sophie Ledingham, personal interest and an intimate knowledge of what music students juggle are the hallmark of Ibarra’s style.
“She puts in the time and effort to get to know you and then helps you get where you need to be, starting with your first meeting freshman year. Without her guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am now—about to graduate.”
All of the different points of contact have provided Ibarra with myriad happy memories of seeing students succeed—and even some enduring friendships.
“I still keep in touch with some of them through Facebook. Sometimes they leave me notes or send me CDs as they make recordings. It’s neat to see where they go in their lives and know that after all these years, they still remember.”
Though she’s honored that her work has been recognized across campus, Ibarra says an added benefit of the award from the Advising Council is the recognition for the College of Music.
“It puts us on the map. It lets the larger campus know what this small college is all about. And we’re setting an example in many ways.”