MONMOUTH – Three Western Oregon University academic advisors have received recognition for their focus on student success and individualized attention by winning awards for outstanding advising from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).
Michael LeMaster, assistant professor of biology, was recognized as an Outstanding Advising Award Winner in the academic advising faculty category. Tamie Saffell, assistant director of the Academic Advising and Learning Center (AALC), received an Outstanding New Advisor Certificate of Merit. Also with the AALC, Roberta (Bobbi) Weber received an Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit.
This year, no other college or university in Oregon received a NACADA award. There were only two other schools in the region who won awards, which includes five states, two Canadian provinces, and one territory. The prestige of these highly competitive awards is heightened by the fact that these are peer-judged.
Director of the Academic Advising and Learning Center, Karen Sullivan-Vance, said that it’s an honor for one person to get an award, but to get three awards is phenomenal. “It’s really a reflection on the quality of work that they do. All three are committed to student success and it’s clear they all view it as a privilege to work with students.”
The university is strongly committed to academic advising, and the AALC has been working to make many improvements over the past several years based on feedback from students and the proven best practices from across the world. AALC also make opportunities for professional development for the advisors.
Michael LeMaster joined WOU as an adjunct in 2001 after earning his doctorate in zoology from Oregon State University. In 2003, he moved into a tenure-track position. Since he began teaching, he has considered advising to be an important part of his role and credits the interest to the excellent advisors he had as an undergraduate, who directed him toward earning a doctorate degree.
“Advising is a direct interaction with students. It’s a chance to learn about students as individuals and talk to them about areas outside of academics,” said LeMaster. “I enjoy helping them shape their academic and future career goals by giving input based on my experience so they can make their own decisions.” He added that he gets just excited as they do, especially in the spring when pre-nursing students are learning of their acceptance into nursing programs. LeMaster finds it most rewarding to see students returning to the area, supporting the local community after they completed their medical degrees.
Tamie Saffell earned her master’s in student development in post-secondary education from the University of Iowa in 2004. She joined WOU in 2007 and her energy, professionalism and knowledge has already led to being invited to make statewide and regional presentations. Saffell is inspired by her job. “Every day I the opportunity to work with some of the most incredible students. I am continually amazed by their accomplishments and dreams. It is an honor to be part of their development.”
Bobbi Weber has only been with WOU for a couple of years, but she’s been advising since 1982, mostly with the University of North Dakota and the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She’s honored by the award, and appreciates the recognition of her dedication advising.
The majority of her career has been spent advising students who have not chosen a major. “It’s fun to take all of that interest and unknowingness, and funnel it to help them find a direction,” said Weber. She’s also enjoyed advising non-traditional students who are fearful that they can’t be successful at the university. Weber’s mantra is to tell them they aren’t too old, it’s never to late to achieve your dreams.
Sullivan-Vance appreciates the dedication of these three award winners, and all those on campus who advise students. “At Western, students come first. The faculty are committed to teaching, and to teaching students. That’s the advantage of being at a smaller institution, students matter and you know their names.”
NACADA was created in 1979 to promote quality academic advising and professional development of its membership to ensure the educational development of students. The organization has grown to over 10,000 members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Established in 1982, the National Awards Program for Academic Advising honors individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising.
# # #
Michael LeMaster Assistant professor of biology 503-838-8136 or email@example.com
Tamie Saffell Assistant director, Academic Advising and Learning Center 503-838-8057 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Roberta Weber Academic advisor, Academic Advising and Learning Center 503-838-8576 or email@example.com
Karen Sullivan-Vance Director, Academic Advising and Learning Center 503-838-8389 or firstname.lastname@example.org