Academic Advisor with thought bubble that reads, "It's a great day to talk to an advisor."

The conference must go on

Headshot of Madeline Rencher

Madelene Rencher, 2020 New Outstanding Advisor and co-chair of the conference.

Every year, about 150 academic advisors from across the University of Utah’s campus are invited to come together to exchange ideas, learn and build community. The University Academic Advising Community (UAAC) includes academic, non-academic, undergraduate and graduate advisors. They hold monthly meetings, but the annual conference is a special opportunity to collaborate. When organizers realized it wasn’t going to be safe to hold the event in person this year, they couldn’t bring themselves to cancel it.

“We just felt like it was really important to not give it up and to make sure we keep the momentum going from the school year,” said Tammy Mabey, director of operations in the Academic Advising Center and co-chair of the conference. “We have a lot of new advisors as well and it’s an important event for them to start feeling like part of our community and learn some of our best practices.”

More than 100 advisors joined the virtual conference via Zoom on May 27, 2020. The event included a keynote, breakout sessions and even an interactive trivia game played on the Kahoot! app.

The conference is also when winners for Outstanding Advisor (at least three years as an advisor) and New Outstanding Advisor (less than three years as an advisor) are announced. This year, Outstanding Advisor went to Jen Wozab and the New Outstanding Advisor is Madeline Rencher.

“It’s an extensive process to be chosen for these awards and the winners are automatically entered into the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA),” said Mabey. “We’ve had several of our advisors go on to win the national awards as well and even though we couldn’t congratulate them in person, we’re glad Wozab and Rencher could be recognized by their peers virtually.”

Headshot of Jen Wozab

Jen Wozab, 2020 Outstanding Advisor.

While they would have rather come together at the Alumni House as was originally planned, several participants let the co-chairs know they were very appreciative of the work and flexibility that went into hosting the conference online.

“We’re really proud to be able to showcase how our advisors have been able to adapt and persevere through all of these challenges together,” said Rencher, academic advising coordinator and co-chair of the conference. “Being able to weather this storm together even virtually and help build each other up is incredibly important so we can continue to do our jobs, which are such an integral part of students’ success.”

The first-ever virtual UAAC Conference theme was "A 2020 Lens: Focusing on Students and Advisors from Start to Success."

screenshot of the conference attendees on Zoom

National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) 2020 award winners

The NACADA Global Awards recognize individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising within higher education, ultimately enhancing student success. Two University of Utah academic advisors received the national awards this year:

  • Katie Barnard, Outstanding New Advisor, Primary Advising Role
  • Jason Atherton, Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Advising, Primary Advising Role

See the 2019 winners here.