Assistant Dean Donald C. Woolston rolls out the College of Engineering welcome mat in a big way. Each year, through the Engineering General Resources (EGR) Office for Advising and Academic Support, he meets with prospective students and their parents, conducts summer orientation sessions for hundreds of incoming freshmen, and advises hundreds of students entering the college.
Drawing on years of teaching and advising experience, Woolston brings patience, wisdom and a lively sense of humor to these interactions. He is a coach, a cheerleader, a mentor and a confidant. Day after day, he cheerfully answers the same questions — yet listens and responds with care, always tailoring his advice to the situation at hand.
To help first-year students better understand engineering and relate it to their own interests, Woolston created and taught the survey course Contemporary Issues in the Engineering Profession (InterEngineering 101) in the mid-1980s. He now co-teaches the course, which enrolls more than 400 students each year.
Under Woolston's 17-year leadership, EGR has become a model for implementing academic support programs and using technology to communicate with advisees. Nearly 700 students take part in extensive supplemental instruction and tutoring sessions every semester; for students in serious academic difficulty, EGR staff instituted an "intrusive advising" program that reduced the number of pre-engineers dropped from the university for low grades. In spring 2003, the office became the first college advising program to use conferencing software so that advisors could chat online and share applications in real time.
Woolston also carries a full load of administrative duties. In January 2006, he became academic dean for all undergraduate engineering students. Outside the college, he founded the Commission on Engineering and Science Advising within the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). In 2003, his office received the NACADA Certificate of Merit for advising program excellence.
On campus, he chaired the University Book Store board of trustees for several years and served terms on the UW Athletic Board, chairing its University Ridge and facilities committees. Recently, as part of his long-term partnership with the college Diversity Affairs Office, he collaborates on the NSF-funded Wisconsin Alliance for Minority Progress project, in which he is responsible for academic support activities.
All of these efforts, say colleagues, reflect Woolston's commitment to the EGR fundamental goal: to foster a welcoming, inclusive and supportive learning environment.