Two Academic Advisers Earn 2024 Excellence Awards

Members of Cornell’s Professional Academic Advising Community (PAAC) recognized two of their own for their commitment to providing helpful guidance and sincere care to undergraduates.

Lisa Nishii, vice provost for undergraduate education, presented the 2024 Excellence in Professional Staff Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards to Foula Dimopoulos from the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) and Liane Fitzgerald from Cornell Engineering at a ceremony May 2 in Room G10 of the Biotechnology Building in front of an audience of close to 70 colleagues.

Professional academic advisers – in collaboration with faculty advisers – help students navigate challenges, design strategic action plans and build their students’ self-efficacy.

“This award is really meant to elevate the work of professional academic advisers and really highlight their integral role in the community, specifically in the success of undergraduate students,” said Steph Cowling-Rich, OADI assistant director of the Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Program/Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (EOP/HEOP) and student advising and engagement.

The award selection committee considered 20 nominees for this year’s award and announced that Fitzgerald and Dimopoulos were the winners at the ceremony. Both will receive $2,500 to use for professional development.

Dimopoulos, who is senior adviser for EOP/HEOP and Pre Professional Programs (P3) and First Gen Program coordinator, was honored for an “unwavering commitment to supporting and empowering students across differences,” according to one nominator’s remarks, which were read by Maegan Puzas Kessen, assistant director of inclusive academic advising in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Dimopoulos’ “advising practices are a testament to inclusivity and equity, creating an environment where students from diverse backgrounds feel welcome, valued and heard,” she read.

Presenting the award, Nishii said, “A first generation Appalachian queer, trans masculine and white person, Foula seeks to foster inclusive spaces, inspire lifelong learning and drive meaningful change.”

Nominators praised Fitzgerald, director of engineering advising in Cornell Engineering, for her knowledge, kindness and patience, according to EOP/HEOP adviser Lisanny Manzueta Custodio, who read a selection from the nominations.

“Liane cares deeply about fairness, which has resulted in more consistency in the application of policies and an important focus on equity as college practices are revised and refined,” she read.

Nishii said: “Liane finds reward in teaching students decision-making skills and empowering them to be comprehensively aware of their situations. She makes it her personal responsibility to provide information, options and assistance so students are better able to make informed decisions consistent with their personal and professional values.”

Before Nishii announced the winners, she described how professional advising has substantially progressed at Cornell in the past five years, highlighting how the Advising Across Difference: Academic Advisors Course, an Intergroup Dialogue Project class, provides opportunities for advisers to explore ways in which social identities inform their advising practice and to build a colleague network of advisers interested in making strategic, systemic change to enhance the undergraduate experience at Cornell.

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