OSWEGO — The SUNY Oswego President’s Award for Excellence in Academic Advisement for 2015 will honor biological sciences staff member Lisa Brancato, Mary Rodgers of the finance faculty in the School of Business and Karen Wolford, professor of psychology. The honorees will be recognized at the college’s annual Teaching and Learning Awards Ceremony this fall.
As academic advisement coordinator in the department, Brancato advises up to 150 biological sciences majors, most of them first-year students, and coordinates a team of 18 faculty advisers who counsel a total of more than 500 majors and minors.
Sophomore Caroline Dougherty nominated Brancato for the award. “She supports students’ decisions and helps in any way possible,” Dougherty wrote, adding she “would not have been as successful my first year without her help.”
James MacKenzie, chair of biological sciences, endorsed Brancato’s nomination. “From an advising standpoint, Mrs. Brancato has become a jack-of-all-trades as the interests of our first-year students vary widely from zoology to ecology to pre-health studies,” he wrote.
Brancato also coordinates all first-year peer advisers, serves as advisement trainer for new biological sciences faculty, coordinates summer pre-registration activities, and was “instrumental” in working with the mathematics department to establish a prerequisites system so students have the best chance of excelling in their math requirements, according to MacKenzie. Brancato assisted Julie Pretzat, dean-designate of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts, in establishing Advisement Boot Camp sessions for faculty advisers. “Mrs. Brancato has a deep care for the success of all students and is devoted to working with them and faculty to optimize student success,” MacKenzie wrote.
In her statement, Brancato wrote, “I try to maintain an awareness that success in the classroom is only one component of a well-rounded individual who is prepared to be successful in multiple aspects of life. … I strive to encourage students to advocate for themselves, practice professionalism and positivity in their interactions, consider situations from multiple angles, and perhaps realize that there is more than one path to a goal.”
The Marcia Belmar Willock Endowed Professor of Finance, Rodgers advises 65 students, among them two of this year’s five recipients of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. One of honorees, Dianora DeMarco, soon to start in a nationally competitive position with the Financial Accounting Standards Board, wrote in nominating Rodgers that she is “overwhelmed with gratitude” for the role her adviser and other professors played in her academic success.
Another nominator, finance senior Tom Benson, said Rodgers “has been the biggest contributor to my success and growth as a student at Oswego. … I have met with her for multiple reasons: to talk about classes, Investment Club or even to ask her questions about her experience in the workforce … I have never met a professor who cares so much about student success as she does.”
Among her advisement techniques are encouraging students to sketch out a personal growth map drawing up a list of pros and cons surrounding course selection for each semester and urging advisees to strike a balance between intensive technical courses and general cognitive courses, Rodgers wrote in her statement.
“My philosophy on advisement is to integrate two processes: the student’s process of self-discovery with the process of understanding how curriculum choices produce skills that are valued in the workplace,” Rodgers wrote.
Rodgers arrived at Oswego in 2012 after 30 years of Wall Street experience with Merrill Lynch and after earning a doctorate in professional business studies from Pace University. A Chartered Financial Analyst, she advises the student Investment Club and the college’s CFA Research Challenge team.
Former psychology chair and faculty founder of the trauma studies certificate program at Oswego, Wolford advises 23 psychology undergraduates, 12 graduate students in trauma studies and a human-computer interaction graduate student. Emblematic of her personalized approach to advisement, Wolford listed each of her 36 advisees and commented personally on her work with many of them.
“After having served as a first-year adviser for many years, I have come to the realization that a majority of students will engage in activities and pursuits that drive them closer to their academic and personal goals,” Wolford wrote. To that end, as students grow in their academic experience, she often collaborates with them in teaching, research or service. “I have attempted to meet students where they are at and try to foster the development of their unique skills and talents.”
For example, Wolford teamed on a National Science Foundation grant with graduate student Arthur Delsing and is working with him to develop a mobile app for stress reduction in first responders. The lessons they learned were presented at the Eastern Psychological Association conference, and they have a presentation in June at the Human Resilience Conference.
One graduate student nominator, Rebekah Tanner, said she knew Wolford would be helpful from their very first “warm and welcoming” email about Tanner’s interest in trauma studies. “By the time, a few weeks later, that we met face-to-face to discuss the program … I knew I had an ally.”
With Wolford’s active advice and support, Tanner now has been accepted in Oswego’s master’s degree program in mental health counseling and is doing field work in the United Kingdom this month. “Without Dr. Wolford’s encouragement and support of my efforts in realizing this opportunity, it would simply not be happening,” Tanner wrote.