UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Timothy Radio, Division of Undergraduate Studies programs coordinator at Penn State Mont Alto, and Robert Rioux, Friedrich G. Helfferich Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering, have been selected to receive the 2014 Penn State Excellence in Advising Award.
The award, established by the former Undergraduate Student Government’s Academic Assembly and sponsored by each college, annually honors one full-time professional adviser and one full-time faculty member from any Penn State location who have at least two years of advising experience. Selection criteria are based on excellence in general advising, academic and career guidance, enthusiasm and assistance in decision making, and goal setting.
As Division of Undergraduate Studies programs coordinator since 2007, Radio directs the operations of the DUS Advising Center at Penn State Mont Alto. He organized and carries out the campus’s New Student Orientation program, serves on the University Advising Council, developed and facilitates the Mont Alto Advising Council, and supervises advising staff. He is a member of the campus Early Intervention Team, which monitors and performs outreach to at-risk students, and of the Student Success Committee.
“My overarching approach to working with students is one of trying to balance support and challenge — supporting students when they need it in their development while also challenging them to pursue higher things, and increasing that challenge and encouragement as their need for active support lessens,” he said. With a first-semester student, he explained, he typically provides more support, taking the time to explain a degree audit and methodically build a schedule. With a returning student, he said he expects the student to lead much of the discussion and incorporating related topics such as study abroad and internships.
“When we can give the right amount of support and then challenge them to reach new heights, students have the potential to succeed at whatever they choose to pursue,” he added.
When Rioux came to Penn State in 2008 after postdoctoral research at Harvard University, he said, his focus was on building a world-class research group as quickly as possible. “I was very adamant and forthcoming about my disparate approach to research and teaching — I cared about one and not the other,” he said. “It didn’t take more than a semester to realize that most students need advising/mentorship when it comes to making choices that will influence performance in current courses and their professional careers.”
Rioux said he strives to provide individualized advising to each student, even in classes of more than 100 students. “My overriding philosophy in student advising is to listen first before advising,” he noted. “If you are not willing to listen to a student, but rather provide some formulaic, ‘insert name here’ response, students are not provided with the best possible advice to succeed.”
His said his favorite venue for advising is the research laboratory, where he combines high expectations with mentoring for both graduate and undergraduate students. “I want each of my students to recognize that as part of my job, I will spend the time to help them make critical professional decisions, prepare for my course exams, and discuss issues in their lives that impact their professional careers.”