Four University of Georgia academic advisors have received 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards. Matthew Head, Will Lewis, Edie Parsons and Amanda Spohn were nominated by their supervisors and a committee of three student representatives from SGA, along with the previous advising award winners.
Matthew Head, UGA’s Outstanding Advising Administrator, supervises two advisors for transfer and pre-professional students as the academic manager for the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. In addition to his managerial role, he also advises nearly 200 professional students.
“Matt is an innovative leader, extremely knowledgeable of the advising process,” said Robert Bringolf, associate dean for academic affairs at the forestry and natural resources school. “His advising approach focuses on the students and their academic and personal success. His dedication to excellent advising extends beyond the Warnell School.”
Faculty describe Head as having a strong work ethic, extraordinary listening skills and stout data skills saying, “Matt is a wizard when it comes to advising undergraduate students. Because of his dexterity, I have never failed as a faculty member in suitably channeling undergraduate students toward their intended major at Warnell. Matt’s passion for undergraduate advising is second to none. I do not have any hesitation in saying that Matt is a key factor when it comes to ensuring a positive overall educational experience for an undergraduate student at Warnell.”
Head received his A.B. in English from UGA in 1999.
Will Lewis is the recipient of the Excellence in Advising Special Populations Award for his work with student-athletes. He advises over 250 students and supports 10 advisors as the lead advisor for intended business majors in the Exploratory Center. In addition to his assigned responsibilities, Lewis was selected for this award for his exemplary leadership in advising student-athletes.
Since 2016, Lewis has served as chair of the Advising Student Athletes Subcommittee where he stays abreast of policies that govern college athletics and shares timely updates with advisors campus-wide to best inform their work. He has also worked closely with UGA Athletic Counselors to develop and present the “Advising UGA’s Student-Athletes” Training and Development course as a part of the UGA Certificate of Academic Advising.
In addition to his work at UGA, Lewis is also a national leader for advising student athletes, teaching “Academic Success & the Student-Athlete,” an online course offered through the National Academic Advising Association. Lewis’ thoughtful approach in considering the special circumstances of student-athletes and providing robust services and programs demonstrates his dedication to this special population.
“I am struck by the impact Will has had on students and advisors alike,” said Jennifer Eberhart, coordinator for the UGA Exploratory Center, and Lewis’ supervisor. “He helps support a culture of innovative student programming and holistic advising that elevates and professionalizes advising within the Exploratory Center and across UGA.”
“Will always goes above and beyond to support the student-athletes on UGA’s campus, while also respecting and abiding by NCAA rules and regulations. [He] has been able to build bridges between athletics and advisors all across campus—not just within his unit. [Will’s work] has allowed the Athletic Association to better serve the student-athletes across various majors, which is a direct result of Will’s leadership and initiative,” said Beth Dziedzic, director of academic support for the University of Georgia Athletic Association.
Before coming to UGA, Lewis attended Georgia College and State University where he earned a B.A, in English and an M.Ed in Teaching.
Edie Parsons, UGA’s Outstanding New Advisor, advises over 250 biochemistry and life sciences students in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Despite being new to both UGA and advising, she has acquired a great deal of knowledge about the complexities of Franklin College advising. New advisors in her role are not expected to take on extra departmental responsibilities. But within Parson’s first year, she volunteered to do so by helping to enhance academic plans, simplifying the process of finding research opportunities, meeting with student organization leaders and joining several ad-hoc committees.
“We often say in Franklin that it takes two years to settle into the ebb and flow of the advising cycle and understand how much one doesn’t know,” said Mike Merva, Franklin College Lower-Division advising coordinator and Parsons’ supervisor. “Edie somehow managed to reach this point around her second semester, and since then has continued to grow and develop into an advisor who seems like she’s been at the job for decades.”
Students commend her for her ability to help them through stressful transitions. “Ms. Parsons makes acute observations in order to connect, understand, guide and comfort students through the good and bad times.” said a Franklin college advisee. “She’s more than an advisor; she was a light of hope for me when I thought it was all over for my academic career and fell into disappointment.”
Parsons earned a B.S. in chemistry from Ohio University, an M.Ed. in counseling and guidance services from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Montana State University.
Amanda Spohn, UGA’s Outstanding Professional Advisor, advises over 250 students as lead pre-health advisor in the Pre-Professional Advising Office. In this role, she goes above and beyond when it comes to helping students.
“Ms. Spohn brings energy and innovation to the office; she has a wealth of ideas and projects always on deck and is not shy about pursing their implementation,” said Caroline Piotrowski, coordinator of the Pre-Professional Advising Office, and Spohn’s supervisor. “Her enthusiasm is tremendous, only to be matched by her determination and work ethic. She truly thinks outside the box and challenges others to do the same by setting an exceptionally high bar.”
Realizing that pre-health students have limited study-abroad options that cater to their interests, Spohn reached out to the Office of Global Engagement to explore programming options for these students. Because of her efforts, there are finalized plans for a Maymester in Belize beginning in 2021.
An advisee said, “Ms. Spohn is the most encouraging, optimistic, constructive advisor I’ve ever had at UGA. Her guidance throughout my pre-dental journey was crucial to my success, and I would have been completely lost without her. Her excitement and energy encouraged me to get everything I needed done and gave me the confidence I needed to excel.”
Spohn attended the Ohio State University and earned a B.S. in political science in 2002 and Ashland University to earn her M.Ed. in literacy in 2008.