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Local honorees recognized nationally
Advisers named among the best in the country
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
By Beverly Makhani, University College
Hones to chair board
Sarah Ann Hones, head of the distinguished scholars advising program in the WSU University College, has been appointed chair of the academic advising consultants and speakers service advisory board of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).
The board assists in the development of the consulting group, which provides advising experts to colleges and universities to present workshops, conduct evaluations and share expertise at conferences, meetings and other events.
Hones will assume her leadership role at the conclusion of the NACADA annual conference in October and will serve in the position for two years
When three WSU advisers were recognized as this year’s most outstanding on campus, they were pleased at the nod from their peers. Now, word has arrived that they have been named among the best in the entire nation.
Thrilled for themselves and for WSU, they took some time to contemplate what the honor means.
“It feels like a validation that what I’ve been doing is the right thing,” said Mark Brownell, adviser in the College of Sciences specializing in pre-pharmacy.
“I think the awards say as much about us three as they do about our university," said Jane Parker, assistant director of the Center for Advising and Career Development in the University College. "It’s important for WSU to be in the national spotlight. It shows everyone that WSU pays attention to its students’ success.”
“My first reaction was to say ‘This is BIG!’ But quickly my thoughts went to my mother who taught me about service and giving to others,” said Jessica Cassleman, assistant dean and adviser in the Honors College. “This award confirms to me that our responsibility is to give to others.
"Advising is not only the compilation of check marks in front of each course completed," she said. "It is dealing with each student as an individual, listening to their heart, their soul, their uniqueness. It is compassion and understanding, and being a leader, a guide, a mentor and at times the strong parent, the demanding teacher, the fair judge.
"All in all, advising is empowering others to do the best, pushing but not breaking.”
Cassleman, Parker and Brownell in January received Outstanding Academic Advisor awards for 2009 from the WSU Academic Advising Association (ACADA). Respectively, their awards were in the categories of faculty who teach as well as advise, administrators who advise, and advisers for whom that is their primary role. The local chapter nominated the three for national award consideration.
In April, the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) sent word to WSU that Cassleman received its top honor, the Outstanding Advising Award, in the faculty category. Parker and Brownell received Outstanding Advisor Certificate of Merit awards in the administrator and primary role categories. All are for year 2010.
“It is incredible recognition,” said Lisa Laughter, WSU ACADA president. “These great people have been acknowledged to be among the best at the national level in a huge organization. This is an exciting time.”
Inspiring individuals, impacting the system
Between them, the three awardees have nearly 55 years of experience advising thousands of WSU undergraduates. Though their careers led them down very different paths, they seem to have reached common ground in terms of advising philosophy.
As Parker puts it, “I’m not here to tell people what to do with their lives, but I can sure help them get the tools they need to think and re-think their options and make the best decisions for themselves.”
Parker finds people fascinating. The Massachusetts native earned her education in human development, counseling and psychology at Penn State University, the University of New Hampshire and WSU. In her early career, she served children’s needs but found she enjoyed helping adults more. At Utah State University, she was one of the first to enter the newly created professional advising staff.
“Faculty members appreciated having an academic adviser in the department so they could work with students more on the things they knew and loved," she said. "I was also there to help students access various opportunities on campus and to reach graduation.”
From her first day at WSU in 1980, Parker has been part of the universitywide academic advising team. As she saw needs, she addressed them. She coordinated the Peer Advising Program that grew into a residence hall model; she took knowledge from that experience to the planning team for the Freshman Focus learning community, which today continues to blend experiences and lessons from within and beyond the walls of classrooms.
Parker is credited with having the vision for WebCAT (Cougar Advising Toolkit) that collects an array of vital advising information. She helped create the “Achieving Academic Success” page in the WSU Catalog, helps prepare academic advisers to help new students at Alive! summer orientation programs, developed the “Reinstatement Checklist for Interviewers,” and is pleased to serve when needed on committees and at meetings and to talk to students.
“I have always incorporated career development in my academic advising … to help students understand the relationship between a major and a career,” she said.
She asks them what they want to do when they graduate, suggests they major in what they like and are good at, and encourages them to incorporate “internships, study abroad, service learning, leadership and work experience as part of the package they present to potential employers.”
“Helping students understand the value of a college education as opposed to job training has been part of my discussion … when they ask ‘what can I do with (this) degree?’ I ask back, ‘what can you do without a college degree?’”
Fighting mythology, inspiring lofty goals
For Mark Brownell, advising at WSU is his second career. But he doesn’t feel it is a giant leap from serving as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy for 20 years.
“I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring, managing and training those of all ages, educations and backgrounds, and I can tell you there’s nothing more rewarding than inspiring all students toward their own lofty goals,” he said.
Raised in eastern Pennsylvania, Brownell graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and nuclear power schools in Florida and New York before heading out to sea on a Hawaii-based destroyer. First stop: the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s.
Over the next two decades, he served 10 years at sea in progressively more responsible posts, took or taught classes stateside, earned his master’s degree at the U.S. Naval War College, and oversaw the building of an aircraft carrier.
He has traveled all around the world - except, he says ruefully, he’s never been through the Panama Canal. For surface warfare, he learned about communications, weaponry, tactics and ship handling. He taught sailors how to use military equipment and to handle combat stress.
Aboard ship, he was responsible for making the nuclear reactors work and for chemical and radiological waste. In command roles, he scheduled the jobs of hundreds of crewpersons and was in charge of maintaining good ship morale.
In 2001, he was assigned to the University of Idaho to lead its Naval ROTC program; in 2005, he retired.
“My family and I could have gone anywhere, but our oldest daughter wanted to finish high school here. So when an advising job opened up at WSU for fall 2006, I decided to start my second career.”
In just over three years, he Brownell has made his mark. He advises more than 300 pre-pharmacy students in the sciences yearly, mentors the pre-pharmacy club, conducts workshops for students investigating pharmacy programs and applying for admission, and stages his “own series of mock interviews, with rapid-fire questions and intense exchanges followed by head-to-foot debriefings.”
“I aim to be the students’ sounding board, and I work hard for them to trust me so they can talk to me about anything without fear,” Brownell said.
“I fight mythology every day about what they think they can and can’t do by helping put information in their hands," he said. "I support their choices and I am not judgmental. Helping them make informed decisions is my passion.”
A legacy of teaching, serving others
Jessica Cassleman came to Pullman in 1982 when she left her Big-10 women’s track coaching position at the University of Illinois to become the track coach of the PAC-10 WSU team for the next seven years. In 1989, with small children at home, she left coaching because of its travel demands and joined the (then) Honors Program.
She then did the unimaginable.
“I will never be a teacher!” she insisted as a child. “My mom’s whole family was made up of teachers, and I wanted to do something different. Now, looking back, maybe it was simply my destiny,” she said. In 1990, she was teaching, and advising, Honors students.
She is the youngest of three children born in Santiago, Chile, to her father, a mechanical engineer, and her mother, the owner/director of a private school. She spoke only Spanish until she went to school at age 5, when she starting learning English; in middle school, she started studying French.
“Then I wanted to be an ambassador,” she said. Yet, at the University of Chile, the degree she earned was in education. Her graduate studies were at Illinois and WSU. She continues to seek knowledge - but these days about topics related to her job.
“I am a good adviser because I take the time to learn,” said Cassleman. “My students come to me for all kinds of things, not just academics. I make a point to know as much as I can about athletics, international programs, admissions, scholarships, and curricula and majors across campus, for example, so I can address students’ concerns and needs.”
That knowledge also comes in handy when she’s on the road recruiting new students and visiting community college and high school counselors, or having informed discussions with parents, alumni, employers and friends of the Honors College.
In addition to teaching one or two classes each year for 20 years and advising about 300 Honors students yearly, Cassleman is adviser to the Honors Student Advisory Council and to Honors’ peer mentoring and student ambassador programs. She has served on numerous committees and campus projects, but has devoted more time recently to creating and preparing to teach a new course for Honors freshmen.
“I care for people and students deeply - for their success and their academic, social and overall wellbeing," she said. "I like to talk to them in person, one-to-one, not in e-mails. I try to see the total person, help them recognize where their skills and talents and passions are. I want them to push to do the best they can and to see their limits and be happy with their achievements.”
Cassleman, like Parker and Brownell, mentors, guides and encourages students. All were deeply touched to receive both the local and the national advising awards.
“It’s interesting, you know, to be told you are ‘outstanding,’” said Cassleman. “I feel like I have so much more to learn and do. Maybe I should take my own advice and take a moment to just enjoy what I’ve done so far.”
Cassleman, Parker and Brownell will be honored at the NACADA annual conference in October in Orlando, Fla. In 2009, four other WSU advisers received certificates of merit from NACADA; two were named to a two-year emerging leaders class; and another received a regional award. More information on the campus group is online at http://wsuacada.wsu.edu.