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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition


See the current and past Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates.

2019 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates


Crystal Benedicks

Crystal Benedicks is known as a change agent at Wabash College through the dissemination of responsibility of first-year writing instruction. She created the Wabash Writing Statement, a unifying statement across academic disciplines to develop a community of writers as considered essential within a liberal arts education. This statement is responsible for challenging previously defined barriers in first-year writing instruction, as the responsibility of writing was initially devoted solely to high school teachers or the Department of English. Her commitment to first-year excellence has been noted with frequent involvement in Wabash’s summer-bridge program curriculum and dedicated meeting time for all students she works with, giving her a reputation for academic advocacy and support. Serving at an all-male institution, Benedicks challenges common stereotypes on masculinity at Wabash by promoting campuswide dialogue on expressions of masculinity in American society. This is exemplified through her creation of gender studies courses and assignments catering to masculinity’s role in society. For example, she once had students write about men’s role within the #MeToo movement.


Katie Chartier 

Katie Chartier has transformed the Engage, Develop, Grow, and Empower (EDGE) summer bridge program at the College of the Desert that has grown to serve more than 4,000 students, far more than the initial class of 22. Chartier was responsible for many aspects of this growth by advocating for the expansion of EDGE to two additional locations in an effort to address communities with low educational attainment. This growing development has led to EDGE receiving national recognition as an award-winning program. Chartier is known for her innovation, team-building skills, and relentless drive in advocating for first-year college students. Two substantial examples include (a) her role in adding a peer mentoring program at College of the Desert, and (b) promoting inclusion of the Spanish language in staff connections to students as a way to further connect with her college’s student population, as College of the Desert is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).


Anneke Chy

Anneke Chy is known as an outstanding advocate and visionary with a keen ability to turn ideas into reality. At the University of Texas at Austin, she has been the Program Manager for the Cornerstones program, which provides a small academic community for all first-year students. Her leadership has helped both shape the program as well as implement it at scale. The impact of her work can clearly be seen in comments from students and colleagues, as well as through impressive improvements in retention. As a result of the programming Chy was responsible for, academic probation rates after the first semester have dropped from 12% to 2.5% over a five-year span, and retention has increased from 93.5% to 95.5%. She is also responsible for implementing the Major Switch program, which focuses on assisting struggling students in first-year science courses by working with introductory course faculty and academic advisors to suggest and develop alternative academic pathways where students can thrive. Chy also serves the College of Natural Sciences in college readiness programming and placement examinations.


Robin Cunningham  

Robin Cunningham embodies the spirit of commitment to Seton Hall University, holding three degrees and working there since 1984. As the Dean for Freshman Studies, she has piloted several initiatives aimed to advocate for and support vulnerable student populations. She is responsible for creating the Seton Summer Scholars summer bridge program to provide foundational experience for students with academic challenges. This program has also been transitioned into the academic year to ensure retention increases and academic success. Cunningham is also responsible for creating the Gen-1 program, which specifically aims to support first-generation college students in the two weeks prior to the start of college to ensure student success. Her long-term perspective at Seton Hall has enabled her to consistently match the needs of underrepresented students and promote academic success in any capacity. Historically, she has also created Seton Hall’s Office of Academic Support for Student-Athletes. She holds involvement in the New Jersey Association of New Student Advocates (NJANSA) and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).


Brigitte Lahme  

Brigitte Lahme is an outstanding first-year student advocate who emphasizes academic success in mathematics. Her elaborate career includes developing curriculum and course materials that have encouraged student success. In addition to co-authoring several college textbooks for mathematics, she served on a multidisciplinary team to develop and offer a year-long STEM course for first-year students funded by the National Science Foundation. This initiative has helped support first-year students in their transition through college while encouraging exploration of STEM. She holds leadership positions as a professor and chair for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. She provides high-quality, student-centered mathematics instruction to all students, enabling them to achieve at a high level of satisfaction and impact in their chosen fields. Her teaching experience has a documented history of high evaluation remarks from her students, with common descriptive terms such as "supportive," "passionate," and "hard-working." An empowering advocate, she ensures college students of all backgrounds can visualize themselves as part of the future of STEM and shows how one faculty leader can inspire and advance the mission of many.


Don Nix  

Don Nix is an outstanding first-year advocate who exemplifies excellence within college readiness, persistence, and retention. At the University of Arkansas, Nix serves as a director for the Accelerate Student Achievement Program (ASAP), a summer bridge program for first-generation students from east Arkansas, and the 360 Advising program, a comprehensive advising program for students with socioacademic need. Nix also helped create the Bounce Back Program for students needing academic assistance and the Student Talent Enrichment Program (STEP), a peer-mentoring program catered to students in need. Nix and his team provide one-on-one support to hundreds of first-year students each year. He serves on key first-year committees, provides programmatic leadership for summer transition programs, and is the lead instructor for academic success courses. Nix is one of the most effective and successful educators within the university's campus community. He has been instrumental in designing new programming for the Student Success Center through collaborative efforts with the Office of Student Success and the Division of Student Affairs. He has a demonstrated commitment to ensuring academic success in the first year and is constantly identifying how his institution can better serve academically at-risk students.


René Sawyer  

René Sawyer has developed a strong, positive reputation at Greenville Technical College for her efforts to put students first. She is responsible for building curriculum, extracurricular programs, and guided advising processes and has developed talented faculty. She is known for not shying away from large initiatives to assist first-year students; one example was her leadership of a five-year Title III Grant, which yielded several student success initiatives. She was also responsible for leading Greenville Technical College’s academic advising from Student Service to Academic Affairs, a shift that required major changes to college procedures, personnel, and facilities. She has been considered a “super-advisor” with an extensive knowledge of programs, courses, and transfer options. She also tends to advise students with the most difficult situations and has repeatedly conducted advising sessions at night and on weekends to ensure students can adequately receive services.


Calley Stevens-Taylor  

During her tenure as Dean of Student Success at Cedar Crest College, Stevens-Taylor restructured the curriculum of both first-year seminar courses to focus on college experiences and life skills that more accurately reflect the college community. She is responsible for creating both an early alert system and a one-stop Student Success Center to efficiently and effectively promote student success. Stevens-Taylor also has a track record of advocacy for international student populations, including the addition of academic coaching and logistics-based staff. Stevens-Taylor collaborates with Student Affairs to maintain a case management approach for academically at-risk students. Her collaborative nature extends to partnerships with Residence Life, Athletics, and Academic Services staff. Her holistic commitment to serving international students has been met with an increase in Cedar Crest’s overall international student population, from 2% to 10%. In addition to this population increase, her developmental initiatives have not gone unnoticed, seeing a 13.2% increase in retention over five years at Cedar Crest.


Lorett Swank

Lorett Swank is frequently recognized as a leader, advocate, creator, and innovator. Through her relatively short time as Director of the Center for Student Excellence (CSE) at Southeastern Louisiana University, Swank has enacted fundamental changes to the institution’s first-year experience programming. These changes and their impact on students have been recognized campuswide. Southeastern’s VP for Student Affairs recognizes her commitment to students: “Dr. Swank’s work and dedication to our students is beyond exemplary.” The changes include a complete revision of Southeastern 101 as a Freshman Success Course; enhancing orientation; embracing proactive advising, early intervention strategies and academic coaching; creating a Freshman Academic Coaching course (SE 102) for first-year students on academic probation; and developing a Freshman Seminar Series to help first-year students establish campus connections. She has demonstrated commitment to emphasizing first-year student success through the aforementioned developments and her advocacy of improvements to the on-campus Tutoring Center, which manages more than 50 subject areas.

john wegner

John Wegner  

John Wegner has a history of success at Angelo State University dating back more than 20 years, teaching at least one first-year experience or first-year composition course every semester. As a dedicated advocate for first-year students, he has been responsible for developing more effective transitional experiences for students in their first and second semesters in college. He currently oversees more than 50 sections of first-year focused "Signature Courses" and teaches one himself to promote scholarly exchange between first-year students and faculty. Much of Wegner’s work can be attributed to a keen sense of the future. His transitional development with advising can be attributed to the high number of students who change their academic major. He has also led advising units to more accurately define career readiness in college students while ensuring a valued educational experience. Wegner has a distinguished career as a faculty member and repeatedly has demonstrated a commitment to first-year success in both academic and career readiness, contextualized through his role as a Dean for the Freshman College and Center for Academic Excellence.


Past Recipients

Year Name Institute
2018 Courtney Bringley  Paul Smith's College
2018 Tim Cairy  Widener University
2018 Christopher Francisco Oklahoma State University
2018 Lynn Gillette Nicholls State University
2018 Ernest Jefferies Davidson College
2018 Amber Morgan Greenville Technical College
2018 Paz Oliverez California State University, Dominquez Hills
2018 Joanne Pederson California State University, San Marcos
2018  David Rizzo  University of California, Davis
2018 Jennie Towner Hartford Community College
2017 Alan Bearman  Washburn University 
2017 Lauren Bell Randolph-Macon College
2017 Gary Bowling Northwest Vista College
2017 Herbert Bruce Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
2017 Jodi Calvert Three Rivers Community College
2017 Deirdre Heistad University of Northern Iowa
2017 Marisel Herrera Arizona State University
2017 Beverly Kahn Farmingdale State College
2017 Michael Puma Loyola University Maryland
2017 Jennifer Young Calumet College of St. Joseph
2016 Dante Cantú State University of New York at New Paltz
2016 Chris Caplinger Georgia Southern University
2016 Jenn Daniels Lyon College
2016 Brenda Dede Clarion University
2016 Patsy Fischer Seward County Community College/Area Technical School
2016 Sonia Maria University of New Mexico
2016 Erin Kimura-Walsh Santa Clara University
2016 Nacy KingSander Texas A&M University – Kingsville
2016 Gerald Poe Wilberforce University
2016 Marnelle Alexis Stephens MacCormac College
2015 Gregory Budzban Southern Illinois University 
2015 Michele Campagna Montclair State University
2015 Frank Collins University of New Brunswick
2015 Richard Gebauer Cabrini College
2015 Christy Henry Wesleyan College
2015 Vincent J. Kloskowski III Saint Joseph's College
2015 Shannon McCasland Aims Community College
2015 Ann Seavey Gordon College
2015 Jill Simons Arkansas State University
2015 Maria Villaseñor California State University, Monterey Bay
2014 Barbara Boyette Guilford College (undergraduate institution: Washington University)
2014 Peter Ellard Siena College (undergraduate institution: Fordham University)
2014 Tracy Gottlieb Seton Hall University (undergraduate institution: Seton Hall University)
2014 April Heaney University of Wyoming (Undergraduate institution: Casper College)
2014 April Mann University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (undergraduate institution: Mississippi State University)
2014 Colin J. Morris Manhattanville College (undergraduate institution: University of Manchester (UK))
2014 Cynthia Mosqueda El Camino College (undergraduate institution: University of California, Los Angeles)
2014 David T. Ouimette University of Connecticut (undergraduate institution: Gettysburg College)
2014 Shelagh Rose Pasadena City College (undergraduate institution: Pasadena City College)
2014 Phyllis Simpson Our Lady of the Lake College (undergraduate institution: Louisiana State University)
2013 Darian Burwell Gallaudet University
2013 Tamara Clunis Amarillo College
2013 Keisha L. Hoerrner Kennesaw State University
2013 Brad E. Hollingshead Medaille College
2013 Virginia McAleese Paul Smith’s College
2013 Sally K. Murphy California State University, East Bay
2013 Gregory D. Robinson Olive-Harvey College
2013 Michael Salmon Marymount Manhattan College
2013 Cheryl Spector California State University, Northridge
2013 Jayme Millsap Stone University of Central Arkansas
2012 Margaret Garroway Howard Community College
2012 Andrew Grant Walsh University
2012 Nicole Hendersen Southern Connecticut State University
2012 John Lanning University of Colorado Denver
2012 Katherine Lehman Otterbein University
2012 Amybeth Maurer Elgin Community College
2012 Christine M. Nowik Cedar Crest College
2012 Karen Palmunen Saint Joseph College
2012 Andrew Person Mercy College
2012 Karen Weathermon Washington State University
2011 Julie Amon Case Western Reserve University
2011 Michelle Bandla SUNY Oswego
2011 Fabania DesRosiers Dominican College of Blauvelt
2011 Lizabeth Doherty Mohawk Valley Community College
2011 Rachel Duff Anderson Siena Heights University
2011 Marsha Fralick Cuyamaca Community College
2011 Keldon Henley Ouachita Baptist University
2011 Marilyn Kurata University of Alabama at Birmingham
2011 Kia Kuresman Goucher College
2011 Denise Rode Northern Illinois University
2010 Christine Benson Madonna University
2010 Dale B. Billingsley University of Louisville
2010 Harvest Collier Missouri University of Science and Technology
2010 Christa D. Fye Hampden-Sydney College
2010 Stacy Gilbert Louisiana Tech University
2010 Richard Reid South Dakota State University
2010 Sarah K. Shutt J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
2010 Stanley D. Singleton Paine College
2010 Tonya Strickland Bainbridge College
2010 Nancy Walburn University of Alabama at Birmingham
2009 Debra K. Borden Corning Community College
2009 Lisa Harris Bortman Whittier College
2009 Felicia L. Ganther College of Lake County
2009 Jennifer Griggs Butler University
2009 Steven Higgins Ohio State University at Lima
2009 Christy Price Dalton State College
2009 Ralph J. Rascati Kennesaw State University
2009 Michele Rasmussen Duke University
2009 D. Kim Sawrey University of North Carolina, Wilmington
2009 Gayle A. Williams Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
2008 Carrie Brimhall Minnesota State Community and Technical College – Fergus Falls Campus
2008 Nannette Commander Georgia State University
2008 Lynita Cooksey Arkansas State University
2008 James Diedrick Agnes Scott College
2008 Robert H. Garvey College of the Holy Cross
2008 Russell Lowery-Hart West Texas A&M University
2008 Steady H. Moono Montgomery County Community College
2008 DeLaine Priest University of Central Florida
2008 Alison Ridley Hollins University
2008 George Roundy University of Puget Sound
2007 Rebecca Ament Zane State College
2007 Robert J. Anderson The College of New Jersey
2007 Paul Arcario LaGuardia Community College, The City University of New York
2007 Tim Boatmun Southeastern Oklahoma State University
2007 Leanna Fenneberg Saint Louis University
2007 Mariana J. Lebron Syracuse University
2007 Pamela M. Milloy Grand View College
2007 Pamela Person University of Cincinnati
2007 Maria C. Bennett Rose Fairmont State University
2007 William J. Tenbrunsel Roanoke College
2006 Dolores Bertoti Alvernia College
2006 Aaron M. Brower University of Wisconsin – Madison
2006 Dorothy Harris Trinity University (Washington)
2006 Laurie Lynn Hazard Bryant University
2006 Jennifer Ounjian-Auque Contra Costa College
2006 Adele Pittendrigh Montana State University
2006 Zaide Pixley Kalamazoo College
2006 Adrian Rodriguez Butler Community College
2006 Joni Webb Petschauer Appalachian State University
2006 Peter White University of New Mexico
2005 Dennis Cook Gloucester County College
2005 Phyllis Cremer Woodbury University
2005 Marcella H. Esler SUNY College at Brockport
2005 Lois Fennelly Bethune-Cookman College
2005 Mabel G. Freeman The Ohio State University
2005 Carole L. Isaak Elizabethtown College
2005 Richard Kirk Texas State Technical College – Harlingen
2005 Cheryl A. Rice State University of West Georgia
2005 Philip Shahbaz Azusa Pacific University
2005 Maggy Smith University of Texas at El Paso
2004 Earl G. Bagley Columbus State University
2004 Rosemary King Carr Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
2004 Kathleen S. Evans State University of New York College at Oswego
2004 Jason Finkelstein Bronx Community College
2004 Jeffrey L. Hale Southeastern Oklahoma State University
2004 Patricia Maestro Mount San Antonio College
2004 Eric L. Newhall Occidental College
2004 Janice Odom North Carolina State University
2004 Robert M. Smith Slippery Rock University
2004 Dorothy P. Ward University of Texas at El Paso
2003 Cassandre Giguere Alvarado University of Texas at Austin
2003 Valery Y.R. Bates-Brown Virginia State University
2003 Kay Dean Bethea Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College – Jefferson Davis Campus
2003 Glenn Blalock Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
2003 Emily F. Cutrer Arizona State University West
2003 Michael A. Dunn Radford University
2003 Vivia L. Fowler Columbia College
2003 Joel Nossoff University of New Mexico
2003 David Rehm Mount Saint Mary’s College
2003 Laurel Williamson Lower Columbia College
2002 Sarah J. Bumgarner University of North Carolina at Asheville
2002 Mona J. Casady Southwest Missouri State University
2002 Andrew Dunham Albion College
2002 Kathleen Ann Gover Brooklyn College, The City University of New York
2002 Robert E. Hawkinson Willamette University
2002 Loann King Kennedy-King College
2002 Rhonda Mandel Oswego State University
2002 Francine G. McNairy Millersville University
2002 Valdrie Walker Sweet Briar College
2002 Katie Watkins Dean College
2001 Theresa P. Ammirati Connecticut College
2001 Eija Ayravainen CUNY, Hunter College
2001 Ingrid M. Blood Pennsylvania State University
2001 Joseph B. Cuseo Marymount College
2001 Duncan S. Harris University of Wyoming
2001 Gail H. McKee Roanoke College
2001 Ruth Ann Policella State University of New York at Potsdam
2001 Chris Staub William Rainey Harper College
2001 Margaret Moore Willen Eastern New Mexico University
2001 Fran Zaniello Northern Kentucky University
2000 John Back Biola University
2000 John Burney Loras College
2000 Luther Hughes Western Kentucky University
2000 Patricia Kowal Blackburn College
2000 Jerry Pattengale Indiana Wesleyan University
2000 Candace Ready Piedmont Technical College
2000 Judith Smith University of California, Los Angeles
2000 Kurt Spellmeyer Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
2000 David Whitman University of Wyoming
2000 Allen Zimmerman Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute
1999 Susanne Adams Sandhills Community College
1999 Eugene Bales Bethany College
1999 James Brink Texas Tech University
1999 Mildred Church Dandridge The Sage Colleges
1999 Lisa Donato Essex County College
1999 Douglas Gaffin University of Oklahoma
1999 Vivian Garcia Conover State University of New York at Fredonia
1999 Becky Houck University of Portland
1999 Nancy King Kennesaw State University
1999 Arthur Mori Chaminade University of Honolulu
1999 Joseph O’Sullivan Bronx Community College
1999 Susan Schapiro State University of New York at Buffalo
1999 Raymond Schwarz State University of New York at New Paltz
1998 Debra Bell Baker Aims Community College
1998 Andrew Bushko Widener University
1998 Linda Carter Cumberland College
1998 David DeFrain Central Missouri State University
1998 Scott Evenbeck Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis
1998 Kathy Fish Cumberland College
1998 Sally Roden University of Central Arkansas
1998 LaVell Saunders Utah State University
1998 Adrian Schiess Xavier University
1998 Deborah Shaw Conner Auburn University
1998 Kathleen Skubikowski Middlebury College
1998 JoAnn Vicks Mary Holmes College
1998 Arthur Wheeler University of Portland
1997 Catherine Andersen Gallaudet University
1997 Patricia Bayer Richard Ohio University
1997 Rennie Brantz Appalachian State University
1997 Dan Fredricks Saint Francis College
1997 Fred Hinson Western Carolina University
1997 Michael Kerman Adirondack Community College
1997 Michael Moore Georgia Southern University
1997 John Slade Forsyth Technical Community College
1997 Morris Wray High Point University
1997 W. C. Burriss Young Harvard College
1996 Jeanne Block Goodan Midway College
1996 Jay Chaskes Rowan College of New Jersey
1996 Alan Dillingham Illinois State University
1996 John Gillen Castleton State College
1996 Sandra Gregerman University of Michigan
1996 Audrey Harrigan-Lamont LaGuardia Community College
1996 William Potter Alma College
1996 Bill Ramage Castleton State College
1996 Judith Rizzi University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
1996 Mary Seeger Grand Valley State University
1996 Beverly Slaughter Brevard Community College
1996 Amanda Yale Slippery Rock University
1995 Grant Cornwell St. Lawrence University
1995 Nancy Dishner East Tennessee State University
1995 Joan Ehren Saint Xavier University
1995 David Gilbert Linfield College
1995 William Hartel Marietta College
1995 Connie Hood Tennessee Technological University
1995 Judith Hooper Mission College
1995 Sung Bok Kim State University of New York University at Albany
1995 Margaret Maguire State University of New York College of Oneonta
1995 Nancy Mergler University of Oklahoma
1995 Richard Wallace College of Alameda
1994 Claudia Barrett Kent State University at Salem
1994 Thomas Carskadon Mississippi State University
1994 Glenda Crippen Purdue University
1994 David Eggebrecht Concordia University, Wisconsin
1994 Gretchen Gall Marian College of Fond du Lac
1994 Dee Allen Goedeke High Point University
1994 Jane Kennedy Brevard Community College
1994 Neil Rudin State University College at Buffalo
1994 Timothy Walter University of Tulsa
1994 Christine Wolf University of Texas at San Antonio
1993 Lorene (Sallie) Brown El Camino College
1993 MaryKaye Cochran Longwood College
1993 Asa Eldh Wheaton College
1993 Bruce Janasiewicz Florida State University
1993 Sandra Powers University of Charleston
1993 Stuart Rubner University of Wisconsin – Parkside
1993 Kathleen Schur Inver Hills Community College
1993 Eleanor Terry William Jewell College
1993 Myron Umerski St. Cloud State University
1993 Jerry Warner Northern Kentucky University
1992 Carson Carr University of Albany, State University of New York
1992 Thomas Flynn Mount Saint Mary’s College
1992 M. Cecile Forté Suffolk Community College
1992 Karen Greenberg Hunter College of The City University of New York
1992 Carol Henley Howard University
1992 Gary Kramer Brigham Young University
1992 Natalie Krawitz Stephens College
1992 Robert McKelvain Abilene Christian University
1992 Meryl Sussman LaGuardia Community College
1992 Ana Maria Torres Aybar Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
1992 Carl Wahlstrom Genesse Community College
1992 Neari Warner Southern University
1991 Ralph Anttonen Millersville University
1991 Dena Beeghly Cecil Community College
1991 Betty Ruth Cully Enterprise State Junior College
1991 Joyce Donatelli Wilson College
1991 Richard Guarasci St. Lawrence University
1991 Jay Mechling University of California, Davis
1991 W. Laurance Quane Illinois State University
1991 Cynthia Sellers Fort Valley State College
1991 O. Kenneth Webb Appalachian State University
1991 David Woodyard Denison University
1990 Ann Ferren American University
1990 Peter Gold State University of New York at Buffalo
1990 James Iaccino Illinois Benedictine College
1990 Douglas Kenny Westchester Community College
1990 Mary McMann Onondaga Community College
1990 Jack Meiland University of Michigan
1990 Mary Oestereicher Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
1990 Brenda Rust-O’Beirne University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
1990 Lois Sculco Seton Hill College
1990 Maria Vallejo Bergen Community College

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