The professional organization of academic advisors, NACADA, which promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students, recognized two College of Arts and Sciences advising staff for their outstanding advising.
Ashleigh Powers received the Outstanding Advising Award in the primary advising category. Shanna Pendergrast received a Certificate of Merit for the Outstanding Advising Award for Academic Advising Administrator. Both will be part of a small group of advisors selected from across the world to be recognized at the annual conference in October.
Powers coordinates academic advising in the Department of Psychology. Several years ago, she served on the university-wide working group that crafted the current advising model, Advising: The Volunteer Experience, which helped shape her own practice.
“Fusing elements of self-exploration, career exploration, and the promotion of experiential learning into our advising conversations helps students see the big picture for their time at UT,” Powers said. “That kind of holistic teaching and learning, coupled with a challenge and support mentality, is the hallmark of what we do in advising.”
Powers appreciates the professional development opportunities she has had in her role as an advisor in the college. From presentations at regional and national conferences to more intimate workshops among colleagues and friends, UT advisors regularly have opportunities to engage in the academic life of the discipline.
“I’ve had so much fun being a part of those exchanges of ideas and practices,” said Powers, who finds great fortune in being embedded in a department that understands and values the advising structure and goals. “The psychology leadership team, Dr. Deb Welsh and Dr. Erin Hardin, are wonderful champions for our students and our advising office. I could not do my job without their trust and support.”
Powers is a leader in the department and provides guidance to three other professional advisors, which has resulted in a model advising center for psychology and neuroscience majors.
“We are thrilled that Ashleigh has received this incredible honor because there is no one who deserves it more,” said Missy Parker, director of advising for the College of Arts and Sciences. “The fact that she makes such meaningful connections with students in two of our largest majors is a testimony to her dedication and commitment to student success.”
Pendergrast, associate director of advising for the college, also has a leadership role within NACADA. In 2017, she was selected for their Emerging Leaders program. This year, she is co-chair of the 2022 NACADA Region 3 conference.
“My professional advising career began at UT and I have been so blessed to work in a college, and at a university, that understands and supports academic advising,” Pendergrast said. “The College of Arts and Sciences has been a great home that has support me in my professional development, both on campus and in the global advising community.”
The opportunities to take on leadership roles in the college and the university-wide level has helped Pendergrast develop her skills as an administrator and widen her network across campus.
“Shanna’s administrative role definitely extends beyond her tremendous leadership within arts and sciences advising,” Parker said. “She plays an important campus-wide leadership role as a primary resource for Navigate. For several years now, she has provided training across the colleges and among the faculty in how to utilize this system.”
Both Powers and Pendergrast bring passion and commitment to their jobs as academic advisors for the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to work with many students across their whole career at UT,” Powers said. “Watching students grow and develop over time, seeing their interests evolve, often witnessing them do things they wouldn’t have thought possible, is all so rewarding. Getting a hug at graduation from a student that I first met at summer orientation four years prior is the best feeling in the world. Professors sometimes come and go across semesters, but we advisors often are in student lives for the long haul, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The opportunity to work with students is a theme for the two outstanding advisors. Pendergrast said it her all-time favorite thing about her job.
“Having the opportunity to partner with them as they define their college journey from celebrating their successes to encouraging them when things don’t go as well as they hoped,” Pendergrast said. “It is those moments that I find rewarding and love.”