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Tate Award winners (left to right) Kitty Jones, Alon McCormick, Rob Silberman, and Ted Fitch, with Vice Provost Craig Swain

The 2006 Tate Award winners, (left to right) Kitty Jones, Alon McCormick, Rob Silberman, and Ted Fitch, with Vice Provost Craig Swan.

U advisers celebrate Tate Award winners

By Gayla Marty

Brief, May 10, 2006

Combine all the choices at public universities with the ups and downs of student life, and it's no mystery why advising is critical to students'--and universities'--success. That's one of the reasons the University of Minnesota created the John Tate Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising in 1986 to honors its best advisers U-wide.

This year's four winners include two faculty and two professional staff members in fields from art to chemical engineering. Altogether they tote decades of advising experience. Students love them, and they love students.

"Every time I leave an appointment, I feel like I'm heading in the right direction, with both feet on the ground and my head on my shoulders," a student wrote about one of the winners. Another was nominated by more than 100 undergraduates who signed a petition.

Ted Fitch, Kitty Jones, Alon McCormick, and Robert Silberman received their awards at a luncheon and ceremony April 28 at the Twin Cities campus. More than 130 advisers and well-wishers attended the event at the Radisson University Hotel sponsored by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

Winners have come from every U campus, but this year all work in the Twin Cities. Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education, introduced and congratulated each one.

But first, time to meet and learn

The celebration culminated a morning of networking and professional development.

"This was a gathering of people very concerned with the interests of students," said Robin Matross Helms, coordinator for faculty awards. "They were enthusiastic about being together--they are a busy group!"

In other words, when advisers manage to tear themselves away from their offices, they do more than eat lunch and celebrate. First they spent three hours devoted to professional development on the theme "Advising in Times of Change," a reference to the University's strategic positioning process now entering its second year.

Sessions dealt with topics from an advising model (Content-Skills-Context) to a model for weathering transitions--personal and professional. One session, "Student Choice: When More Becomes Overwhelming," looked at ways to work with students who insist on having options but can then be paralyzed with indecision or by trying too much.

This was the fourth conference held in conjunction with the Tate Awards. The idea for an annual advising conference was developed by the University's Academic Advising Network (AAN), a 20-year-old organization open to anyone at the U who's interested in advising issues. Current AAN membership includes about 380 people across all campuses.

Sessions were determined through a call for proposals. This was the first year a theme was named up front, says AAN cochair Jodi Malmberg, who's the director of advising for the Learning Abroad Center. Support for the event came from the National Academic Advising Association.