Texas Exes has named College of Liberal Arts advisors Joni Carpenter and Brad Humphries as two of its five 2015 Vick Award recipients.
Carpenter, senior academic advisor for Asian Studies, has been working at UT Austin for nearly 13 years. Humphries, a Liberal Arts advisor since 1999, is the academic advising coordinator for American studies, English, health & society, rhetoric & writing and urban studies.
While the Texas Exes coordinate the award, undergraduate students select the advisors they consider to be the best on UT Austin’s campus. The Vick Award is provided annually to promote quality advising at UT by publicly recognizing advisors who have had an effective, positive influence on the educational experience of university students, according to the Texas Exes website. In addition to being recognized, recipients also receive a $500 prize.
This is the fifth year running that an advisor (or advisors) in the College of Liberal Arts has been recognized with this honor.
Below is a Q&A with Joni Carpenter and Brad Humphries about their work, their impact on students and what receiving this award means to them.
What made you want to become an advisor?
JC: I began my career in higher ed in 1994 when I started teaching composition at Austin Community College. By 1997, I was also teaching at St. Edwards and working as a writing tutor for one of ACC’s Learning Labs. Three part-time jobs were hard to sustain, and I began looking for a full-time staff job at the University of Texas. My biggest joy in teaching was working with students and I knew I could continue doing that as an academic advisor.
BH: When I began advising, I wasn’t too far removed from my own undergraduate experience, which had been an incredibly satisfying one. The idea of shepherding students through such a frightening, thrilling, confusing, enlightening and fulfilling time was too good to pass up.
What are your favorite parts of your work?
JC: My favorite part of my job is working with students. After over 20 years in higher ed, I have a good sense of who our students are and what they need from me. I know they need compassion and support as much as my advice – these are stressful times for students! They’re worried about money, about getting a job; they’re still trying to figure out who they are and what they want for their adult lives.
I love meeting with students and getting to know them at this pivotal time in their lives when they’re struggling with grown-up responsibilities, their changing identities and the choices and challenges of having a meaningful life.
BH: Like all advisors, I enjoy the conversations I have with students, and am fortunate to work with a population—English majors—of interesting and interested undergraduates. But I also deeply enjoy working on projects with my advising and departmental colleagues.
What is a typical week at work like?
JC: I’m not sure I have a “typical” week at work. What I do depends upon the time of the semester. At the beginning of the term, I’m registering students for classes – up to 20 or so a day – in between meeting with others about degree requirements, study abroad or graduation. Other times I could be evaluating study abroad courses, organizing events, researching enrollment trends, processing petitions, requesting overrides, working on scholarships and communicating with students – either in person, or by email.
Mid-semester, students come in for registration and study abroad advising, and sometimes (not enough) for career advising. And always, I am meeting with heritage speakers (mostly Chinese-Americans) who have questions about which language course to take.
What’s your proudest accomplishment at UT?
BH: I must confess that I do get a vicarious thrill when my students succeed. So, whether a student who has struggled earns a diploma or an honors student earns a Mitchell award, I do feel a sense of pride.
That said, I am fortunate to have been invited to participate in a number of college and departmental endeavors, and some of those initiatives have been both memorable and rewarding, including working with other advising coordinators to craft a four-year graduation report, collaborating with English faculty and students in our top-notch honors program and joining forces with other advising units to form a cohesive team.
Do any particular students you’ve worked with stand out to you?
JC: We have lots of amazing majors, so a variety of students and stories stand out. One student, though, was particularly memorable. He was born in a small village in India and lost his mother at a young age. While at UT, he completed the Hindi-Urdu Flagship program in addition to his pre-med requirements. Upon graduation, he was awarded the J.J. Pickle Citizenship Award and the Mitchell Student Award for Academic Excellence. And he was accepted into medical school!
BH: All advisors have advising sessions where they believe they’ve really had a breakthrough with a student, truly made a difference. It can by gratifying when those sessions translate to something meaningful, but equally deflating when they don’t. What I find fascinating, though, is that the significant advising moments often come as a surprise.
For example, I had a student approach me at commencement to thank me, saying that she would have left UT had it not been for a conversation we had early in her career. I was gobsmacked; while I recalled the conversation, mostly about strategies for dealing with homesickness, the meeting was rather run-of-the-mill. That made her appreciation all the more touching. More often than not, it is those seemingly uneventful advising sessions that students point to as difference-makers. One never knows when they’ve had a positive impact, and I find that to be absolutely thrilling.
What advice would you/do you give to incoming college students?
BH: Live on or near campus, if you can, engage, and enjoy!
JC: I tell students not to be afraid to put themselves out there. I know it’s hard if you’re an introvert (like me), but students are much more engaged–and have more fun– when they look for people and activities that will support and challenge them.
I encourage them to find some way of connecting their major and interests with the real world of work and to gain experiential knowledge that can advance their career goals. I also tell them that decisions made during the college years can impact the rest of their lives, so take those choices seriously.
What does receiving this award mean to you?
JC: It means a lot as it comes from students. It’s also nice to have my work validated through a University-wide award. My department and students know how hard I work on their behalf, and it’s nice to have that recognized by others.
BH: Being recognized for good work is always gratifying, but there’s no denying that acknowledgement that comes from students, such as the Vick Award, is particularly meaningful.