Six Virginia Tech undergraduate academic advisors have each been awarded $500 grants as part of the Academic Advising Professional Development Travel Grant program offered through the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and the University Academic Advising Center.

The 2018-19 Academic Advising Professional Development Travel Grant recipients are:

  • Sarah Carl, academic advisor, School of Neuroscience.
  • Annie Laib, academic advisor, School of Neuroscience.
  • Elaine Lewis, assistant director of undergraduate programs, Department of Biological Sciences.
  • Dana McGuire, academic advisor, Department of Sustainable Biomaterials.
  • April Newcomer, student program coordinator and advisor, Department of Geosciences.
  • Emily Stallings, senior instructor, Department of Communication.

“Academic advisors at Virginia Tech come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, but find common ground in their commitment to ongoing student success,” said Kimberly Smith, assistant provost of academic advising initiatives. “We recognize that to attract and retain quality advisors, they must be supported and rewarded for their service.”

Virginia Tech intentionally supports the professional development of faculty, professional, and staff advisors by providing funds to support those who serve undergraduate students in this important capacity. Academic advising is a highly complex field in which advisors are expected to stay abreast of a variety of policies and procedures, academic major requirements, changing student demographics, and opportunities to serve and develop relationships with students.

In her application packet, Carl said she uses appreciative inquiry in her advising practice, relating her work to that of a GPS, guiding students on their path of best fit. Laib said she focuses on developing advising relationships with students, providing them with accurate information, and works to constantly improve her methods. Lewis uses developmental and appreciative advising to provide holistic services that welcome and empower her advisees. McGuire also adopts a holistic and inclusive approach, advising to support students in academic transitions, preparedness, and academic recovery.

Newcomer said she approaches her advising role with students as that of a trusted guide, an advocate and supporter, and a source of understanding and acceptance for their identities and experiences. Stallings sees advising as the foundation for student success and through her advising attempts to provide students with a welcoming environment in which they may learn.

Applications for the 2018-19 Academic Advising Professional Development Travel Grant were reviewed by a committee with the six recipients receiving a $500 professional development grant to assist with expenses related to advising conferences and associated events. All Virginia Tech undergraduate academic advisors are eligible for the grant award.

After completing their chosen development opportunities, the grant recipients will share a reflection paper that highlights the knowledge they gained and how it will impact their delivery of advising services.

To learn more about Virginia Tech’s academic advising initiatives and professional development for academic advisors, please visit the University Academic Advising Center at



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