University of South Carolina

It all begins with a single conversation

By Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-5400

Just weeks before his final exams, hospitality management major Adam Summerford got the call. He would be deploying to Iraq in less than two weeks. It was his second tour with the U.S. Army. He was afraid that his dream of earning a degree would slip away.

Not on Stephanie Bradley’s watch.

“Mrs. Bradley assisted me in withdrawing from my classes, contacting professors and ensuring that once I returned, my re-enrollment would be seamless and worry-free,” Summerford wrote in a letter of nomination for the Ada B. Thomas Outstanding Advisor Award. “Had she not been so dedicated in helping me while I was overseas, I would not have been able to pick back up where I left off.”

Bradley is a student service manager and academic advisor for the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management. Summerford, a drill sergeant at Ft. Jackson who graduated in December 2011, often comes to visit her.

Bradley and Wayne Outten, an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, are this year’s Ada B. Thomas Outstanding Advisor Award winners. Bradley says the key to advising 650 undergraduate majors and 400 minors is making every student feel welcome and at ease.

“It all begins with a single conversation. It begins with offering the gift of TIME…the time between the student and you as their advisor,” Bradley said. “It’s wonderful to see their faces light up and say ‘thank you, I had no idea,’ and leave with a plan to reach their goal.” Like Bradley, Outten prides himself on getting to know his students, and in some cases drawing them out.

“I was most proud of my impact on a highly intelligent student who was initially limited by his own lack of confidence and his personal conflicts,” Outten said. “It was highly satisfying to help him overcome his limitations and move on to graduate school at a top 10 biochemistry program.”

Outten is known for connecting students to internships and research opportunities. In 2009 he launched a Summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity (URO) for minority students attending South Carolina’s historically black colleges and universities.

He says the perfect formula for advising is patience, a willingness to listen to the desires of each student and the courage to challenge a student to overcome, or in some cases acknowledge, his or her weaknesses.

“Nothing is more gratifying than to watch the students whom you’ve advised move from the halting steps of their freshman year to their confident strides as they enter the world outside USC,” Outten said.

Graduate student Khaleh Thomas has benefitted from the chemist’s formula.

“He is an amazing advisor and mentor,” Thomas said. “He could motivate anyone to excel. He’s someone I can look to for advice about research as well as career decisions. He introduced me to different fellowships and funding opportunities. He demonstrates the type of dependability and passion that I hope to have when I become a professor and advisor.”

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Posted: 06/28/12 @ 12:45 PM | Updated: 08/10/12 @ 4:33 PM | Permalink