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NMSU’s Burrell honored for work with Department of Anthropology

A key employee in the Department of Anthropology at New Mexico State University may navigate administrative structures one moment, then determine the best place to purchase a propane-powered refrigerator the next, all the while serving as the “glue” that holds the department’s students and faculty together.


Portrait of a woman
Barb Burrell

Anthropology departmental administrator Barbara Burrell has been selected to receive the 2015 Stephen W. and Robert E. Roberts Memorial Staff Award.

“Barb has a phenomenally demanding job,” said Rani Alexander, anthropology department head. “As department administrator, she works with people in just about all administrative, academic and student advising units all across the university. She navigates administrative structures successfully, professionally and cheerfully, because she appreciates the work of others. She has ‘go to’ people in just about every department, and I have never encountered a problem she could not solve (or at least make substantial headway).”

The Roberts Memorial Staff Award is presented annually to a staff member who has made a contribution to university life and demonstrated dedication and outstanding service to the community as a responsible citizen.

Burrell has served as departmental administrator for anthropology since 2008.

“Yet, she has been a part of our ‘work family’ for some 20 years, first as a graduate student in sociology and later as an adjunct instructor,” Alexander said. “Barb is a native Las Crucen and diehard Aggie with deep roots in southern New Mexico. She is a proud NMSU graduate, as is her daughter, with a profound love for the diversity of the border region and its landscapes.”

Over the last 10 months, Burrell has transitioned from one department head – Miriam Chaiken, who took a new job as dean of the Honors College – to another (Alexander) with “grace and aplomb.”

“I am honored to receive this award,” Burrell said. “It was possible because of all the amazing people across campus who I work with. Thank you.”

Former department head Chaiken recalls the positive impact of Burrell’s determination and cheerful demeanor.

“Every student who passes through our department owes her a debt of gratitude as she works tirelessly to make their time at NMSU productive and enjoyable,” Chaiken said.

Lois Stanford, department graduate director, said Burrell is a great resource for students because of her contacts across campus and her willingness to take the time to solve student problems.

“She always rises to the challenge,” Stanford said. “We make jokes about Barb ‘waving her magic wand,’ but the truth of the matter is that she will take the time to figure out student problems and will call all over campus to get them the help that they need. There are several students, undergraduate and graduate, who would not have graduated in a timely manner if it were not for her perseverance and help.”

Students supported Burrell’s nomination for the Roberts Award.

“Without Barb, I would not have been able to navigate the intricacies of graduate school and student life,” said Amanda Hernandez, who earned a master’s in anthropology. “Her door was always open to me whether I needed a class change or a friend to talk to and she helped to maintain my sanity.”

Burrell will be honored at a reception from 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in the Dona Ana Room at NMSU’s Corbett Center.

The Roberts Memorial Staff Award was established in 1983 in memory of Stephen W. and Robert E. Roberts, sons of former NMSU Business Affairs Vice President George W. Roberts and his wife, Bernice. Stephen, a 1974 NMSU graduate, and Robert, a NMSU student at the time, were killed in an automobile accident in 1978. The award is made possible through donations of the Roberts’ family and friends.