Pre-Engineering Office wins national advising award

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Group study at Wendt Library

Changes to the fourth floor of Wendt Library have made it a focal point for group study. (large image)

NACADA, the National Academic Advising Association, announced recently it will award the College of Engineering Pre-Engineering Office with an Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Certificate of Merit.

Each year, NACADA, in cooperation with the American College Testing (ACT) program, honors individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising. UW-Madison’s College of Engineering Pre-Engineering Office is one of 12 to earn the distinction this year. The award will be presented in October during the NACADA National Conference in Dallas, Texas.

The Engineering General Resources Office, headed by Assistant Dean Donald C. Woolston, coordinates the recruitment, orientation and advising of students entering the College of Engineering from high school. Once recruited, the pre-engineering staff does everything it can to ensure academic success and progress for students as they enter one of the engineering departments.

“We’ve been working hard to expand the idea of advising by not only meeting with individual students but by striving to improve academic success in any way we can,” Woolston says. “If that means coming up with interventions to help students on academic probation or rolling out a new form of advising like internet-based live help — we do it.”

In the course of a year, Woolston, Associate Faculty Associate Bonnie H. Schmidt, Student Services Coordinator Eman Zaki, Program Assistant Nancy Hansen, Undergraduate Advisor Gwen Ebert and Director of Supplementary Instruction Programs Jia-Ling Lin spend literally thousands of hours in direct contact with first-year engineering students. Starting with recruiting activities during high school students’ senior year, through registration and orientation activities in the summer and throughout the first two semesters of courses, the staff in pre-engineering encourages and guides new students on their way to engineering majors.

Recently, working with Wendt Library staff, the advising program expanded tutoring on the library’s fourth floor, providing additional tutors, hours, tables and computers to meet the increasing demand from students. What was once home to row upon row of dusty forgotten patents and a small group of lonely scribes has been transformed into a focal point for student learning. On any given night during the semester, students can be found comparing notes, writing equations on whiteboards, holding group discussions or meeting with tutors.

“We’re proud of our work and we appreciate the recognition,” says Woolston. “But serving students is its own reward. We have many more ideas and seeing our plans come together and knowing that we’re helping our students is what’s important.”