Advisors Recognizing Excellence
By Katharine Webster
Advisor Sarah Reed was concerned. Reed advises accounting and finance/economics majors, and one of her students was struggling in a humanities class she needed to graduate. Then the course instructor, Calliope Pappadakis, reached out.
“She did everything in her power to make sure that student passed,” Reed says. “She was just phenomenal.”
Eager to recognize Pappadakis’ efforts, Reed sent a note, but that didn’t feel like enough. So Reed and fellow advisor Seneca Eldridge came up with the ARE (Advisors Recognizing Excellence) Awards, which began with undergraduate faculty members and has since expanded to the graduate level with help from advisor Erin Davies.
“We want to increase the communication between instructors and advisors,” Eldridge says. “We really want to make sure we’re representing the best of the best.”
Meet some of the best from the past year.
Learn to ask the right question and it’s relatively easy to find the answer, says Joshua Rock, a supervisory intelligence analyst for the FBI who teaches and helps design high-level courses in criminal justice.
That’s true whether you’re a student or an FBI agent, says Rock, whose career has included stints with the U.S. Army, Booz Allen Hamilton and the federal Air Marshals. Currently he works with a group that consults with local FBI teams on thorny problems, such as how to target Medicare fraud or prevent deadly clashes between motorcycle gangs.
“When we travel out to help people in the field, one of the things we work on is crafting a better research question,” he says. “Once you have a really good idea what you’re looking for, finding it is easy.”
No matter what course Rock is teaching – Contemporary Issues in Homeland Security, Terrorism and Strategic Response, or Police and the American Experience – he builds in strong research and writing skills. For their final papers, students must choose a specific, manageable topic and come up with a research question, formulate a hypothesis, craft a thesis statement and defend that thesis using scholarly research.
Rock also builds interview skills into his courses when possible, requiring students to interview someone in the profession – and prepare and submit their proposed questions to him ahead of time. That’s because police and investigators often only get one shot at questioning a witness or a suspect.
“If I don’t ask the right questions, it doesn’t matter how good a report writer I am,” he says.
Rock won the ARE Award last spring because he worked tirelessly with a student who found Contemporary Issues in Homeland Security especially difficult. He helped her complete the course and graduate with her master’s degree on time.
Full-time faculty member and former Assistant Dean Carol Allen empathizes with her RN to BSN students.
Many of her students in Patient-Centered Health Assessment get anxious about the final assignment, when they have to videotape themselves performing a head-to-toe examination on a live volunteer “patient.” Even those with decades of nursing experience are nervous about forgetting something or make a mistake, she says.
“Nurses typically hate to make mistakes, because if they make a mistake, it can be life or death,” she says. “Another huge, huge source of anxiety is being filmed performing something. It’s like stage fright.”
So she wasn’t surprised when one of her students missed the deadline for the final assignment. Allen emailed the student and her advisor. The student told her advisor she wanted to drop the class, even if it meant failing to graduate, because completing the assignment would force her to relive a traumatic incident from her past.
Allen offered the student alternatives, including a face-to-face exam, as the student lived nearby. Ultimately, the student chose to complete the assignment in its original form and passed the course. Having choices eased her anxiety, Allen says.
“She needed to have some options so she could make the decision that would work for her,” she says.
Students often place their instructors on a pedestal and are afraid to “bother” them, but are more willing to discuss their struggles, personal situations and anxieties with their advisors because they see them as friends and confidantes, Allen says. That’s why it’s important for faculty and advisors to work closely.
“Whenever I have a situation with a student, I try to keep the advisor involved, because we play synergistic roles,” she says.
Sociology in Action
Robert Thyberg is the whole package: a full-time new student advisor and a part-time instructor in sociology, a field of study that gives him extra insight into human interactions.
So he knew how important it was, when a student in his Sociology of Social Problems (SOC 213) class copied material by another author into an assignment without attribution, to include the student’s advisor in all his communications.
The student was extremely upset and told his advisor he didn’t understand what he’d done wrong. After the advisor calmed him down, Thyberg spoke with the student by phone and treated the incident as a teachable moment, not a punitive one.
“I try to remain as positive as possible and say, ‘Hey, I’m not mad at you. I just want to help you avoid this in the future,’” he says. “It led not only to building of his technical skills in how to cite, but we had a discussion of why it’s important to be peer-reviewed and which sources are worth citing.
“If we can address this in a positive way instead of shaming them – because no one likes to be shamed – then the students usually respond better,” he says.
A Motivating Force
Nathan Yates ’07, ’13G loved being a student at SNHU so much that he returned as an adjunct instructor in 2014, a year after graduating with his master’s in finance/economics.
“I missed the university and being a student there and being a part of SNHU. The opportunity to come back as an adjunct was great,” Yates says.
Yates lives in a small, rural town in Virginia. Because he suffers from muscular dystrophy and is vulnerable to infections, his parents decided not to send him to public school but to teach him at home with tutors. SNHU’s College of Online and Continuing Education opened up a whole new world of classmates, friends and, now, colleagues.
“SNHU has been so embracing of me for so many years,” he says.
Yates teaches one class per term — he also runs a financial consulting business — and is now training to be a faculty team lead. Advisor Kelley Dubois says he’s a great motivator who gave a flagging student a pep talk that inspired him to complete Money and Banking (ECO 306) and his undergraduate degree.
Yates says the student had a very demanding job and was falling behind, yet wrote page-long e-mails describing why he couldn’t complete his assignments.
“He had trouble focusing on what really mattered,” Yates says. “I told him how close he was. He just needed to apply himself.”
Even after the term ended, Yates e-mailed the student regularly to ask if he was staying on track. The student graduated last spring.