First Year Advising Center receives Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award


Courtesy of Cory Glover

Oakland’s First Year Advising Center was selected as the 2019 winner of the Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award.

The First Year Advising Center (FYAC) is giving new students an award-winning head start to college.

Recently, the FYAC was selected as the winner of the 2019 Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Award from NACADA, the global community for academic advising.

Since opening in 2012, the FYAC has been assisting new students at Oakland University with everything they need to start off a strong college career, including academic advising, help with scheduling classes and general advice for life on campus.

The FYAC will be presented with the award in Louisville, Ky. during the NACADA Annual Conference this fall.

Sara Webb is the senior director of the FYAC and said this award has allowed the staff to celebrate their success and reflect on the accomplishments they’ve had in such a short time.

The FYAC was one of only two programs to be recognized with the award, which Webb said makes it even more meaningful.

“When the FYAC opened seven years ago, we had big goals about how we would impact the first year experience,” Webb said via email. “We’re very proud of the work we do to support OU students, so to be awarded one of the best advising units globally this year is thrilling.”

Rachel Stagman, an adviser for the FYAC, agrees.

Stagman said they work hard to help incoming students transition before going on to do fantastic things, not just at OU, but after graduation as well.

“It really means a lot to have that work recognized by such a big organization,” she said.

Catt McHale, who recently completed her freshman year at OU, said that, though she was only in the center a couple of times over the past year, the FYAC was helpful when she had to change her major.

“Every time that I’ve been in there, they’re very friendly and helpful,” McHale said. “They get everything done very quickly, but don’t rush you through it. They just want to make sure that everything is thorough and get you in and out of there within a reasonable time.”

Lindsey Anderson, an incoming sophomore, also had a positive experience with the FYAC.

Anderson said she really liked the adviser to whom she was assigned, and, though she didn’t agree with everything her adviser suggested, he was accommodating to her needs and helped with scheduling.

“They understand where you’re coming from and that you’re human and have a life,” she said.

For the staff at the FYAC, students are at the center of everything.

Stagman said putting students at the center allows the staff to really advise and support in ways that help each individual student based on what they need.

Webb said students are the most important people on a college campus, and new students need to quickly feel like they belong at OU and are part of the community.

She added that, by keeping the focus on the student experience, they ensure their programs and services help students build a strong foundation of success in their first year.

“Centralizing first-year services in one department is a very different model from that of other universities,” Webb said via email. “Assigning every new student an academic adviser and creating a personalized experience for each student are two additional unique features of our center.”

She hopes incoming freshmen feel welcomed, included and supported as they begin their college experience at OU.

“We always try to emphasize that we are here for them,” Stagman said. “We might not be the person who gives you the answer, but we’re also the person who connects you to that answer.”