Student Advisement Award Winners McCune, Reeher Believe in Proactivity

SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley will bestow the 2010 President’s Award for Excellence in Student Advisement on a history teacher who reaches out to students via social media and an assistant professor of communication who vividly recalls her own struggle finding her way in life.

This year’s honorees, associate professor Mary McCune, undergraduate advisement coordinator for the history department, and assistant professor Jessica Reeher, who performs that role for communication studies, both have energetic approaches to advisement that emphasize listening closely to and being proactive with students.

‘Profound and positive impact’

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Mary McCune, undergraduate advisement coordinator for the history department

Zachary Primrose of Fulton, a recent history graduate, nominated McCune for her “profound and positive impact on my educational experience at Oswego.” He thanked McCune for helping him decide on and get into law school.

McCune noted all students have individual interests, and there is no cookie cutter that says history majors must go into teaching or law. As she said in her letter accepting the nomination, “Students (and their parents) can often have quite restricted notions of what types of jobs a major in history will prepare them for; this is particularly the case with first-generation college students.”

She recalled a history major a couple of years ago who showed a strong interest in government and politics, worked on political campaigns and now is completing a master’s degree in public administration at Binghamton University.

“I try to figure out what students need,” McCune said. “I make sure we reach students who don’t ask so many questions.”

Ming-te Pan, associate professor of history, said McCune “has rendered efficient, effective and tireless advisement services to a wide array of students on campus” and initiated programs to boost the advisement effort. The department has 170 to 200 majors and 30 to 40 minors. McCune serves as intake adviser for all of them and has 40 to 60 personal advisees, Pan said.

“After she assumed the position, she created a history department Facebook page to connect with students online,” Pan said. “She also worked with a group of students to create a wiki page to attract students’ attention to historical events.”

Rich experience

Jessica Reeher, undergraduate advisement coordinator for the communications studies department
Jessica Reeher, undergraduate advisement coordinator for the communications studies department

Reeher plugs in to individual student needs with patience, extraordinary knowledge of program and graduation requirements and a knack for getting advisees to talk.

“They don’t all have the same interests,” said Reeher, who coordinates the communication studies department’s 700 majors and personally advises 20 first-year students and 150 upperclassmen. “They don’t all want the same things. There are so many majors, so many career paths.”

Reeher recalls casting about for her own path as graduation neared, and growing tired of relatives and friends who asked what she was going to do. As seriously as possible, she’d reply, “I’m going to live in a box in the street.”

She now shares that story with first-year advisees in communication studies, urging them to de-stress about ultimate outcomes and to focus on having a full, rich and often wide-ranging college experience, including coursework.

Reeher tries to guide students with questions like, “Ten years from now, in your fantasy world, what are you doing?”

She said one student replied, “I like to shop.” Did you know, Reeher responded, big stores have professional buyers? “She loved that. She is now working as a buyer for Macy’s,” Reeher said. “The bulk of it is just getting them to talk. Sifting out what is meaningful.”

Sharon Bassett of Cicero, a recent communication graduate, nominated Reeher, noting that she not only made herself available to students at hours beyond her normal work day, but that Reeher has extensive knowledge of transfer student requirements. Reeher developed a transfer student reference guide for her communication studies colleagues.

“As a result of these skills and abilities, students who have been advised by Professor Reeher have the chance for a fulfilling and rewarding experience at SUNY Oswego,” Bassett wrote.

Reeher conducts brown-bag sessions to help provide the information her fellow faculty members need to be effective advisers. “Advisement can be a very challenging job, especially in a department with four majors,” Reeher wrote in accepting the nomination. “But I truly enjoy working with students and watching them evolve from nervous first-year students into confident graduates.”

McCune and Reeher will officially receive the awards in an October ceremony.