Students Recognize Outstanding Advisers

Students Recognize Outstanding Advisers


The best adviser contest, which ran from April 2 until April 16, asked students to write a 250-word essay to describe “What particular qualities or practices students think make for excellent advising, and identify specific advisors that students believe are excellent.”

The student winners were Jen Shields, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’14 who wrote about Maria Ruvoldt, a professor in the art history and music department , and Sherry Yuan, FCLC ’15, who nominated Elizabeth Stone, professor in the communications and media studies department here.

Ruvoldt, one of the professors to be nominated by a student as the best academic advisor here, recalled a conversation she had with President Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. when she first started teaching at Fordham six years ago.

“He said, ‘Every student you talk to, in the moment that you speak to them, is the single most important student at Fordham.’ I really took that to heart, so I’m honored that my students recognize the concern that I have for them.”

“I’m always full of advice,” Stone joked, “so it didn’t occur to me that I was doing anything particularly meritorious.”

Yuan, however, expressed that Stone’s advice has had a very significant impact.

“Something that I struggle a lot with is just procrastinating all the time, so for her to actually call me out, or maybe not call me out, but to be honest with me about that was something I really appreciated,” Yuan said. “She’s the professor I feel closest with because I feel like she shows a genuine interest in me and actually cares about what I have to say.” Yuan paused to laugh. “Although she definitely inputs her own opinion as well,” she added.

Honesty was a common trait students attributed to their advisers in many of the essays.

In Shields’ essay, she wrote, “I appreciate [Ruvoldt’s] honesty and regard it as the biggest sign of care any teacher has ever shown me.”

Ruvoldt mirrored that sentiment. “I think being honest and straight with your students is the best gift that you can possibly give them—and to see every student as an individual and try to respond to their needs in the moment,” she said.

Other qualities that student contestants admired in their advisers included having an extensive knowledge of their field, accessibility, passion, patience and having an interest in individual students, according to a preliminary analysis of the essays done by Mark Mattson, the associate dean at FCLC who chose the winning essays, based on both style and substance, along with the assistant deans.

“To me this was less about recognizing the outstanding advisers than finding out what students think makes an excellent adviser,” Mattson said. “We had nine outstanding advisers who were praised by students, but there was no one who got more than one vote, so I think they’re all doing a great job.”

The other seven advisers nominated by students were Brian Rose, Amy Aronson, Michael Tueth and Jennifer Clark from the communications and media studies department, Christiana Peppard from the theology department, Matthew Maguire from the theater department and Assistant Dean Vincent DeCola.

The full qualitative analysis of the essays will be distributed to faculty so that they know “what makes a good adviser from a student perspective,” Mattson said.

But for some students, exactly what makes their adviser special isn’t so easy to define.

“I hate saying the word ‘push,’ like people pushing you to be better, but I think that word applies here,” Yuan said, pausing for a second time during a recent interview.

“I guess some professors let you get away with not giving your all, but I think [Professor] Stone can very clearly tell when you’re not and then she approaches you about that. For her I’m actually motivated to do well, not just for myself, but because I respect her. That’s one reason I decided to enter the contest—I think what makes a great professor and a great adviser is when students don’t want to disappoint them,” Yuan said.

For their part, advisers don’t seem to be disappointed.

“I’ve gotten to know Sherry over the last year or so and we’ve had some talks about her interests and her strengths,” Stone said. “The conversations were significant to me, so I’m glad they were significant to her, too.”