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Woods named HU student of the year

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By Margaret McKinney
Highlands University
New Mexico Highlands University English/vocal performance junior Autumn Woods was named Student of the Year at the 16th Annual Student Leadership Recognition Banquet in early April.
The Office of Campus Life coordinates the recognition event, and a committee of faculty, staff and students selected Woods from other nominees.
The 20-year-old has earned a 3.85 GPA and is also a captain of the Cowgirl soccer team, starting as a midfielder and earning honors as an All-Conference player.
Woods has a versatile and soaring singing voice, ranging from alto to soprano. Local musical theatre enthusiasts know Woods for her leading roles in Highlands productions.
In April, Woods sang Dido in the Madrigal Choir’s production of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. In February, she sang the lead of Sandy in the HU Singers sold-out productions of the musical Grease. Woods also soloed in Les Misérables, Cabaret, and more.
“I’m incredibly proud of Autumn and know she’ll accomplish great things,” said André García-Nuthmann, who directs the choral program. “She has so much talent, intelligence and an amazing work ethic. Autumn is also incredibly kind and humble.”
Woods hails from Mapleton, Utah, and grew up in a musical family, singing while her mother played piano. Autumn was 8 when she first sang the national anthem publicly at a baseball game.
Her college freshman year, Woods missed music so much she searched for a practice room in the music building. Given permission to play a piano, she also brought her violin for daily practice.
“I could sing with all my fervor in the practice room and no one said a word,” Woods said. “Music is how I express my emotions.”
A music student heard her playing violin and invited Woods to play in his band, which she did. This led to her auditioning for a Department of Music vocal solo.
“Music has become the connecting vine that intertwines each aspect of my life at Highlands,” Woods said. “Music here is like being part of a family and I was embraced with so much acceptance.
“The music professors are wonderful and have taught me a vast amount. Belting out Broadway songs came naturally to me, but classical and opera were foreign and intimidating. André took me to a new level in my classical and operatic voice, and helped me increase my vocal range,” Woods said.
When she performs, Woods says it feels like the audience is giving her the gift of listening.
Head soccer coach Justin Wagar nominated Woods for Student of the Year, citing her academic accomplishments and leadership on and off the soccer field.  
“Autumn’s rapport with faculty and staff has been top-notch, and she excels in the classroom and campus community,” Wagar said. “Autumn has a way of bringing enthusiasm to everything she does. She gets people around her to try hard – whether it’s soccer, music or acting. She’s an inspiration.”
Wagar said Woods has been very active in the community, volunteering alongside her soccer teammates. They donate meals to needy families over the holidays, visit the elderly at Vida Encantada, clean kennels and walk dogs at the local animal shelter, and more.
“Coach Wagar is a great advocate for community service and then the girls are the ones that carry it through, with Molly Enenbach leading the way,” Woods said.