The Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising annually recognizes advisors at the University of Pittsburgh who have engaged students in a collaborative and holistic process of advising by preparing students for lives of impact through educational experiences tailored to their specific goals and needs.
For the purposes of this award, an academic advisor is defined as a staff or faculty member who formally serves as a student’s designated advisor. While we recognize and celebrate the fact that students consult with and seek advice from a network of staff and faculty throughout their academic journey at Pitt, the purpose of this award is to celebrate those members of the University community that serve as formally designated academic advisors.
Each award consists of a cash prize to a staff or faculty member of $1,000 and a grant of $1,500 to support that advisor’s professional development activities. Up to three awardees may be chosen in each award period.
Congratulations to the 2023 Award Recipients!
University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
Kearsten Adams has been an Academic Advisor at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg Campus since 2010. She earned her Master of Teaching degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University and Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia. At Pitt-Greensburg Kearsten also serves as the coordinator for the Summer Bridge Program and teaches college success and cornerstone courses to assist first-year students with the transition to college. She is also a part of the campus wellness team and helped to implement Greensburg’s version of the “wellness and resiliency” course to increase outreach and support on the campus. As an advisor, she takes a proactive approach with her students by building relationships and providing outreach. She partners with campus resources like financial aid, career services, learning center, counseling center, and professors to ensure students have what they need to succeed. She meets students where they are both in and out of the typical advising situations and takes much pride in their accomplishments. Kearsten’s supervisor, Director of Advising Beth Tiedemann, said, “Kearsten cares deeply about her students and places her students at the center of her work. I see evidence of this in her day-to-day work and in our conversations about particular student situations. Kearsten adapts her advising approach to work with each student in a way that is meaningful, authentic, and supportive.”
College of Business Administration
Kevin Riley has been an Academic Advisor at the University of Pittsburgh in the College of Business Administration since 1995. Kevin earned a BS in Geology from Pitt. A true leader of the CBA advising team, Kevin uses his experience to assist colleagues on continual improvement, policy, and procedures within the department. A true servant leader of our institution, he has served on many committees, taught several courses, and even helped to develop the first iteration of the CBA website. He is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and incorporates this philosophy into his advising interactions. Kevin explains that advisors are “touchpoints” for students with the University, and he strives to be an empathetic student advocate and a clearinghouse for information and referrals. Using a strengths-based approach, he often asks students questions to help them think about their academic goals and aspirations. One of his current students said, “I have had a wonderful experience at Pitt, and that all began with Kevin. Now, as my time here comes to a close, he is playing a pivotal role in my next chapter. To me, advising excellence is personal, compassionate, and transformative. My experience with Kevin has been all that and more. He believed in my ambitious dual degree dream four years ago, for which I will be forever grateful. He has guided me every step of the way and is the epitome of excellent advising at Pitt.”
Swanson School of Engineering
Kaitlyn Washko is an academic advisor in the Swanson School of Engineering. Kaitlyn earned her MS in Professional Counseling from Carlow University and BS in Psychology from Penn State. On the first-year advising team in Swanson, Kaitlyn helped to implement a strengths-based advising model for the unit, teaches first-year seminars, recruits and trains tutors, and serves on various committees to support the school’s mission. She is also part of the Mental Health Task force and is trained in the Mental Health First Aid. Kaitlyn’s advising philosophy is based in assisting students to view their full potential and ability to succeed. She accomplishes this by building rapport, creating a safe environment for all students, being a problem-solver, highlighting strengths, having patience, and showing gratitude. One of her greatest strengths is in working with students facing academic difficulty. Jill Harvey, director of advising and her supervisor, said, “Kaitlyn works so effectively in this coaching role and she is an ideal fit to work with our students who are struggling because her own Top 5 CliftonStrengths are rooted in relationship-building and connecting with others...Kaitlyn’s ability to relate to and empathize with this group of students comes naturally to her! She is able to use her strengths to cheer students on, find their own strengths, and adapt to new and altered academic plans from what they originally laid out. Kaitlyn is a compassionate helper, a trusted resource, and empathetic presence for students implementing a Plan B.”
Submit a Nomination
University of Pittsburgh students, staff, and faculty are invited to nominate eligible candidates. To be eligible for the award, an academic advisor must be a current staff or faculty member and have served full-time at the University of Pittsburgh for at least two years at the time of the nomination.
Find more information about advising excellence, eligibility requirements, nomination guidelines, and selection procedures in the 2023 Guidelines (PDF).
The nomination period is closed.
Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising event: Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Congratulations to all of our previous recipients of the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.
- 2022 Winners
Danielle M. Andrews-Brown
Danielle M. Andrews-Brown, Lecturer, Undergraduate Academic Advisor and Environmental Studies Program Coordinator – Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, holds a B.S. in Biology from South Carolina State University, M.S. in Plant and Soil Sciences from University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in Soil Sciences from Penn State University.
She is a revered faculty member, mentor and advisor in the department of geology and environmental science. Additionally, she is the assistant dean for the Dietrich School for Undergraduate Studies and is the academic integrity officer. In this role, she has been able to deploy her skills and abilities as a departmental advisor to school and university-wide initiatives. Associate Dean Twyning noted, “Prepared to work with any student, she has become an expert across the board, helping students navigate their way to the best possible academic outcome... in all her roles, Danielle is a strong and insightful advocate for our students.”
Danielle's guiding principles include being student-centered, reflective, and inclusive. She aims to enhance confidence, agency, and capacity for self-advocacy in each advisee. It is clear she engages in constant examination, assessment, and self-reflection of her advising practices and implementation of strategies that support her overall well- being and that of her students. She works to develop trusting and respectful relationships with advisees and to support their diverse backgrounds, interests, and needs by creating relationships that are culturally appropriate and effective at addressing barriers for students facing socioeconomic, cultural, physical, and learning barriers. She takes time to meet with her students in order that they feel comfortable and confident in their goals, dreams, and plans for college and beyond.
Karen Ricco, an Academic Advisor at the University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg campus since 2007. Karen earned three degrees from Pitt: B.S. in Applied Mathematics, B.A. Linguistics, and M.Ed. in Higher Education. She is highly involved in her campus and community, including the National Theater Honors Society, National Math Honors Society, American Legion Auxiliary, and several choirs in her community.
Karen has a demonstrated track record of advising and mentoring professional development and leadership. She trains others on her campus and is often the “go to” person for questions about advising. One nominator wrote, “When stumped, I reach out to Karen... in the rare occurrence that Karen does not know the answer to my question, she always would direct me to the appropriate staff member.”
Her advising philosophy focuses on fostering the whole student, factors important for student success and encouraging personal growth. It is clear from the recommendations provided that students and colleagues value Karen’s commitment to her campus community and their personal and academic success.
Devin N. Ulm
Devin N. Ulm, Academic Advisor, First-Year Engineering Program – Swanson School of Engineering. Devin holds a B.S. in Engineering from Robert Morris University and an M.Ed. in Higher Education from Pitt. Her supervisor, Jill Harvey, describes her as “analytical, a problem-solver, and one who seeks constant improvement. She is such an asset to our team because she innately brings a mindset that many student services professionals have to work a little harder to access.”
While she has only been in the profession a short time (three years), she has already shown leadership capacity at Pitt and in the broader advising community. She is an advocate for her peers and has helped others in the profession. Devin co-leads the PMACC (Community Circle) for new advisors, she has presented at the annual Mentoring and Advising Summit and other workshops, and sits on committees for the Swanson School and the wider University. She was also on the workgroup which developed curriculum for Pitt ACT, the online training program for advisors.
One of her colleagues shared, “As a new advisor, I’ve been exceedingly grateful for Devin’s leadership in the PMACC for New Advisors. Devin is a master at communicating advising policy, theory, and practice to a group representing a wide range of departments and backgrounds.”