April Thomas-Powell, an adviser in Oakland University’s School of Nursing, has been awarded the 2017-2018 Adviser of the Year Award.
The award was commemorated with a plaque that can be found in the Kresge Library. It is given out by the Professional Advisers Council each year to the academic adviser they feel has most impacted students with his or her mentorship and guidance. Thomas-Powell is also being recognized by the National Academic Advising Association.
Beginning her studies in Kansas, she has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history and stumbled into the world of advising unexpectedly.
“I started working with students as someone who was new to the professional world, and I fell in love with the work I was doing almost immediately,” Thomas-Powell said.
Working with students became a passion for her after she joined Oakland’s staff.
“There was a position to work with students at risk and I got to help them set up paths to success,” she said. “It’s a chance to help students reach their fullest potential.”
Although she never had an interest in studying medicine, Thomas-Powell joined the advising staff in the School of Nursing and has worked there since 2005. Her focus is on transfer students and students on academic probation.
Having worked with at-risk students for over 10 years, Thomas-Powell devotes herself to helping them stay motivated and on the correct path.
“I love the puzzles that come along with the job,” she said. “Each student is different and you get to help them figure out how to navigate Oakland University in a way that will work for them. When I think of what makes someone a great adviser, compassion and empathy definitely come to mind. You’re constantly learning how you can improve the lives of students because no two students will have the same questions.”
Many students worry about adviser meetings because they aren’t sure exactly how to prepare, an issue Thomas-Powell encounters frequently.
“Always write your questions down,” she said. “If you come into the office prepared then we have a better chance at being able to help you.”
She also pointed out that it’s important for students to be proactive about meeting with an adviser.
“You don’t want to wait until you’re in a tough situation,” she said. “Look at the course catalogue and recognize the steps you need to take in order to reach your degree.”
Additionally, Thomas-Powell has a desire to help students with the social side of college life. Since the OU community primarily consists of commuters, it can be hard to develop a fulfilling social life.
“My advice to students is to stay on campus as much as possible,” she said. “It can be tempting to go take a nap during your class breaks, but try to stick around.”
Her final piece of advice was encouraging students to join organizations that align with their interests.
“If you don’t see a student org that speaks to your passions, create one,” Thomas-Powell said.