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Advisor of the month: June 2017

Alexis Ward, Advisor of the Month for June, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech

Alexis Ward

Department of Engineering Education, College of Engineering


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
The students – I wouldn’t do this if it was not for the students. Each and every one of them have such a unique story and I get the privilege every day of getting to be the audience in their personal performance. They trust me enough to sit in front of me, sometimes a stranger to them, and tell me their fears, their accomplishments, their struggles, the best part of their semester, and sometimes the worst part about their semester. That is a lot of trust and I never take that for granted – in fact, I am grateful that I get to the opportunity to learn from brilliant and inimitable students daily, which in turn encourages me to go beyond the bounds what I know. It seems that students feel we hold so much powers as adults and faculty, when in all reality – my students are the ones who have the power to change the world and I enjoy being there to inspire that process.

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?

  • Explore Engineering – In 2014, the undergraduate advising team developed a tool to aid in student major and career exploration for the 14 different undergraduate degree-granting engineering programs. This tool has been placed on the undergraduate section of the department’s website, titled “Explore Engineering.” Specifically, I completed research for the information utilized and the design layout of the tool by comparing various other engineering schools in the country. This research compiled the information in the following sections: desired skills, career exploration tools, and related majors and minors. I continually provide feedback and updates on the tool. Recently, I suggested adding organizations and labs for related to each major, which led to the new “Getting Involved” section.
  • Major exploration workshops – Since 2015, I have partnered with the Career and Professional Development office to create and co-lead 2 workshops every fall semester, titled “14 Engineering Majors: How to Find YOUR Best Fit.”
    • The workshops serve General Engineering students and typically have around 20 students in attendance each, which allows for group major exploration advising in a more structured and interactive way. This format permits universality, altruism, catharsis, and interpersonal learning that individual appointments do not.
    • The workshops included guiding students through the 4 steps of major exploration, sharing specific and targeted resources for students to utilize, and a take-home workbook.
    • I also consolidated the workshop material to be included on the undergraduate engineering education advising website as a resource for all students, but also for the advising team to reference when working individually with students. Both purposes allow for the major exploration process to be readily accessible for students and advisors.
  • General Engineering Ambassador Program - As the ambassador coordinator since 2014, I established the first student ambassador program to represent the department of Engineering Education at various events, including Hokie Focus, College of Engineering Open House, SEC Freshman Major Mixer, and Majors Fair. This year, the ambassadors also managed an ambassador Twitter account on a rotational basis. A summary of the typical activities for the program on a yearly basis are as follows:
    • Managed the entire hiring process for 6 ambassadors, including developing job descriptions and interview questions, creating an online application utilizing Google Forms, coordinating advisors schedules for candidate application reviews and interviews, and setup and led all in-person interviews. Over the past three years, there have been 50 applications on average and 15 students interviewed.
    • Developed and facilitated ambassador trainings with agendas and presentations, including academic overview, social media, professionalism, new change of major requirements, and practicing potential questions from prospective students and families.
    • Send various email reminders throughout the semester for trainings and events.
  • Increased accessibility – By joining the general engineering advising team, I am able to advise more students through individual appointments and also further increased availability through the above contributions I have made to my department - offering group advising programs, involving current students to further reach students, and utilizing technology to create resources for innovative student success.

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
There are many exceptional advisors and faculty that I have had the privilege of working with and learning from every day and I can only say that the reason I am where I am today as advisor is because of those mentors who continue to make a difference in my life and the lives our students. So if I have any advice to other professionals, it would be to keep doing what you are doing – keep putting students first, keep caring, and keep showing up every day because one day you never know when that one person – whether it is your supervisor, your colleague, or a student needs you and all you had to do was show up and be there.