UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State World Campus undergraduate advising staff is being recognized with two national awards for their work to transition their team and the students they serve to the University’s new student information systems.
The team, Academic Advising and Student Disability Services, will receive awards from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association and the National Academic Advising Association at the organizations’ annual conferences in October.
UPCEA recognized the group’s contributions to continued student achievement with the Excellence in Advancing Student Success award. The NACADA Advising Technology Innovation Award recognized the staff’s online, new-hire training program as the most innovative use of technology in advising.
“Our team of academic advisers serves as a critical lifeline for our students who need assistance with academic success as distance learners,” said Dawn Coder, director of advising for Penn State World Campus.
The World Campus advising team assists more than 7,000 students in more than 20 majors. The staff of 48 provides a range of academic advising services, including helping students with transferring prior college credit and supporting active-duty military service members, veterans and students with disabilities.
In the 2016-17 academic year, the University moved to a new student information database and other advising-related tools. A team of two advisers catalogued solutions the team found in responding to challenges. They also created webinars on topics so the entire team would have easier access to finding and implementing the fixes.
The team also streamlined how it communicated with students. For example, they used video conferencing software and had office hours to accommodate students in different time zones.
“What they’re doing is difficult,” said Karen Pollack, the assistant vice provost for online and blended programs at Penn State World Campus. “They’re so passionate about serving students even in the face of this very daunting task. They always find a way to meet new challenges.”
The new adviser-training program went through a major overhaul in the past year to include materials about learning the new systems. The program consists of 17 topics, such as managing students’ progress, student-centered advising, transferring credits and more.
Coder said it’s the most in-depth training program she knows of.
“It’s really allowed us to train academic advisers in a faster way,” Coder said.
Academic advisers Rebecca Marcum and Julia Glover were part of the advising training program overhaul. They said they feel rewarded just by doing their jobs.
One of Marcum’s students reached out to her in late August to say that he was helping in his community’s recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas. Marcum notified his instructors of his situation and asked that they give him flexibility until he could resume his coursework.
“It’s rewarding to know that I could help in any little way to ease this student’s mind about his studies and allow him to focus on the bigger task at hand,” Marcum said.
For Glover, sometimes appreciation comes when she least expects it.
“Once at graduation, a student introduced me to her family as the person that ‘made it all happen,’ that ‘believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself,’” Glover said. “I don’t usually think about the impact I may be having on a person in any given moment, but it is moving to know that my words can mean so much to someone.”
Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about learning online.