photo of sekhar chivukula and deb dotterer with advising award winners

Advisors empower students to make life-altering decisions for themselves, armed with the best possible information.

On Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 I had the opportunity to speak at the first annual MSU Advisor Recognition Ceremony. Advising is a unique academic role on campus: in this role, advisors need to carefully balance giving students accurate and realistic advice on academic options, while simultaneously honoring students' hopes and dreams. Advisors empower students to make life-altering decisions for themselves, armed with the best possible information. And, on occasion, they advocate for students who legitimately have a grievance with the system.

It has been said, and I agree, that:

"Academic advising is the only structured service on the campus in which all students have the opportunity for on-going, one-to-one contact with a concerned representative of the institution.[1]"

This is especially true, and especially important, at a large public institution like MSU.

At MSU, we believe that all our students have the ability to learn, persist, and graduate. In many cases, however, our incoming students have no idea, however, in what field they will be able to find their calling. Others come in believing there is only one true path to success, and become disillusioned if that first path becomes untenable. In these cases, most often advising is the difference between persistence and graduation, on the one hand, and disappointment and a departure with debt on the other.

Advisors have also played a crucial role in our student success efforts, and are primarily responsible in particular for our shift from reactive to proactive advising as evidenced by our adoption of the Student Success Dashboard and for acting on our EASE (Enhancing Academic Success Early) early warning reports. Advisors also provided the guidance needed for our incoming students to establish “credit momentum” (see our Go Green, Go 15 campaign) which this year saw the number of first-year students registered for 15 or more credits in the fall semester rise from 28% in 2016 to 42% in 2017.

On behalf of the Provost’s office, a big thank you to all of our advisors.

The nominations and the selection of the advisor awards were done by peers – and our honorees have earned the respect from those closest to them who know what it is they do, and how they help both students and MSU.

The categories of awards and this year’s recipients are:

·       New Advisor Award: Recognizes an outstanding MSU advisor who has been in the field of advising for three years or less. Awardee: Erica Crews, Honors College

·       Established Advisor Award: Recognizes an outstanding MSU advisor who has contributed to the MSU community for more than three years. Awardee: Jonglim Han Yoo, Dow STEM Scholars Program.

·       Faculty Advisor Award: Recognizes an outstanding MSU advisor who also serves as a member of the faculty. Awardee: Gary Schnakenberg, Dept. of Geography, Environmental, and Spatial Sciences.

·       Advising Administrator: Recognizes an outstanding MSU advisor who also serves as an administrator. Awardee: Dorcia Chaison, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

I want to particularly thank Deb Dotterer, who advocated for these awards, and Dorcia Chaison who coordinated the awards as part of her Advising Leadership fellowship, and all of the advisors who nominated colleagues and participated in the selection process.

While these awardees are highly deserving, I recognize that many others in our university advising community work tirelessly in support of our students – and I look forward to recognizing many more of them in the coming years.



[1] Habley, W.R. (1994). Key Concepts in Academic Advising. In Summer Institute on Academic Advising Session Guide(p.10). Available from the National Academic Advising Association.


Feedback and suggestions, especially from the MSU community, welcome: email sekhar@msu.edu.

R. Sekhar Chivukula is the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Michigan State University.