June 26, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Former New Mexico volleyball student-athlete Kelly Williamson was announced as the 2011-12 Mountain West Female Scholar-Athlete. The award is the highest honor given by the Conference and is presented to a male and female student-athlete each year who best exemplify "student-athlete" by achieving excellence in academics, athletics and community involvement.
In addition to athletic achievement, recipients of the Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average, demonstrate leadership, and exhibit good character and conduct on and off the playing field. The Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award was established by the Mountain West Joint Council in 1999. Each honoree will receive a $2,500 postgraduate scholarship.
Williamson graduated summa cum laude this past May with a degree in conservation biology and a minor in sustainability studies. A four-year letterwinner for the Lobos' volleyball program, she closed out her playing career with first-team all-Mountain West accolades in 2011.
The Buenos Aires, Argentina, native twice earned CoSIDA Academic All-District recognition en route to becoming the Lobos' first two-time CoSIDA Academic All-American, garnering first-team honors in 2011 after being named to the third team the previous season. A 2010 Rhodes Scholar candidate and member of the University's Honors Program, she maintained a 3.98 cumulative grade point average, leading to Academic all-MW and MW Scholar-Athlete accolades all four years.
Throughout her four years at New Mexico, Williamson strived to integrate her athletic and academic endeavors. In addition to completing a four-year stint as a member of the UNM Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Williamson served for one year as a student senator, promoting campus legislation and community service projects that focused on environmental concerns. She also used her experience with the UNM volleyball program as the basis for her honors thesis, proposing ways to offset the environmental impact of the team's travel with on-campus renewable energy resources.
Williamson, who was named a 2012 recipient of a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, also took her studies abroad, spending two summers in China and Nepal working with various conservation efforts.
"This is a great honor for Kelly and is something she is very deserving of," New Mexico head coach Jeff Nelson said. "She's done it all and epitomizes what a student-athlete is and should be. This is a great tribute to her, her family and our program. We're very happy for her."
The 6-2 outside hitter was an impact player for UNM, especially in her junior and senior seasons. Williamson finished 2010 third on the team in total kills (296), blocks (57) and points (335.5). In 2011, she was second on the team in total kills (404, 3.64/game) and points (435, 3.92/game), while recording 40 blocks on the season.
As a freshman she played in 27 games, recording 26 kills and six blocks. Her sophomore year she tallied 59 kills and 18 blocks over 49 games.
"I'm very surprised and honored," Williamson said. "I think being a student-athlete helps you become a well-rounded individual. I can't thank my teammates, coaches and the athletics administration enough for allowing me to pursue athletics and to stay motivated to be involved in the community and to do well in school. We're students first and athletes second and I think the athletic department at UNM does a good job promoting all three areas."
Williamson also acknowledged her family.
"My parents have been very supportive throughout my college career," she said. "I can't thank them enough."
Williamson is the fifth Lobo to be named Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the Mountain West and the first since 2006-07. She is also the first Lobo volleyball player to earn the distinction.
Previous UNM student-athletes who were honored by the conference include Matthieu Amgwerd (1999-00, men's tennis), Sean Murray (2003-04, baseball), Maja Kovacek (2005-06, swimming and diving) and Lars Loseth (2006-07, skiing/soccer).
Williamson is still around UNM for the summer, working as a biology field research assistant. She has signed a professional volleyball contract to play for a team in Klagenfurt, Austria and will move to Europe in September. Williamson plans to attend graduate school, "somewhat in the near future."
Former Wyoming cross country and track and field standout, Greg Miller, was this year's male recipient.