UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Devon Thomas, academic adviser in the College of Health and Human Development, and Brian A. Egan, instructor of equine science in College of Agricultural Sciences, have been selected to receive the 2017 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.
Thomas said her job is to help students find opportunities that encourage critical thinking and career exploring and optimizing the likelihood of success in helping students reach higher to solve big-picture problems.
“We often work through academic, career and life situations to determine the most appropriate forms of action they should take,” said Thomas. “I never tell students what to do. I spend time reasoning with them through the outcomes of their actions or inactions.”
Thomas said she encourages students to embrace “a tapestry of diverse thinking and experiences” while encouraging then to share those experiences and embrace who they are and what they bring to each encounter, while recognizing their own individuality and role within the community.
For Thomas, each student requires a unique approach.
“For many students, excellence is measured by getting a high mark in a course. For other students, each day might be a struggle, and excellence might be measured by simply doing better than they did the day before,” said Thomas. “In advising, excellence for me personally is knowing that each and every day, with each and every student, I have done everything that I possibly could.”
Egan says he relies on his experiences attending Penn State in the 1980s after coming from a small school system.
“There were several faculty members that I relied on to help me through the process,” said Egan. “One was my academic adviser and another was the adviser of the Block and Bridle Club of which I was member. Their total commitment to the success of undergraduate students has remained with me to this day.”
An adviser’s job is to instill in students a thought process that will help them shape their futures and a course of study aimed at reaching their goals, said Egan, adding that it’s important to inspire students to stretch their boundaries and branch out within the animal science major to become more marketable graduates.
“I want all students to understand that they must take advantage of every opportunity provided to them not only to gain experience but to network with industry professionals at a variety of levels,” said Egan.
Egan sees students inside the classroom, in the advising office and outside of the classroom in activities such as the Collegiate Horseman’s Association at Penn State, where he is co-adviser, and the University’s Intercollegiate Horse Judging Team, which he coaches. This allows him to be an adviser on many different levels and helps to ensure that students not only achieve success at Penn State but are properly prepared to take the next step after graduation.
“My ultimate goal as an adviser is being available to students in whatever way I can to help them have a positive and productive experience while on college,” said Egan. “For some, this simply means helping them schedule classes once per semester. For others, this means being a professional mentor and a source for career opportunities. For still others, this means helping them through personal strife, which might otherwise cause them to struggle through school or to leave college. Whatever the case may be, I always try to help in whatever way possible.”