Professor to be honored for advising award

Amber Paulk speaks during Mike Hall’s HPER class. Paulk is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Family Studies who was recently awarded for her academic advising.

While a professor teaches classes, advising students to get them the degree they want is an important part of the job as well.

Amber Paulk, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Family Studies, will be honored for her National Academic Advising Association Outstanding Advising Award in Faculty Advising Oct. 11.

The award is part of the 2017 NACADA Global Awards Program.  The award honors faculty members with the primary responsibility of teaching who also use part of their time to provide academic advising services to students, according to the NACADA website.

Paulk said she is “humbled and grateful” for the award.

“This was just a cool, unexpected thing that I don’t know that I’ll ever quite get over,” she said.

Paulk is the first faculty member at UNA to win this award. She also received the UNA Academic Affairs Award for Outstanding Advising last year.

Paulk said while she loves teaching, advising is the highlight of her job.

“(Advising) has kind of become my favorite part of my job, because it’s the time where you really get to know your students,” Paulk said. “In a class of 40 students, you definitely get to know them, but the one-on-one time is really that mentorship time that I have found to be the most rewarding for me personally.”

She said over time as an adviser, she realized that her role was more than reviewing course sheets.

“For me, (the checklist is) the second thing that we do now,” Paulk said. “(Talking to students first) helps me, when we turn back to the checklist, advise (them) better on which classes (they) should take.”

Andrea Hunt, assistant professor of sociology, said Paulk is her colleague and mentor.

“Our offices are very close to each other, and I see firsthand the work she does with students,” Hunt said. “She spends an enormous amount of time advising her students on their classes (as well as) career goals and opportunities. She is the perfect example of what it means to be student-centered.”

One of the requirements to be eligible for the award is to have student letters of support. To get these, Paulk said she reached out to both former and current advisees.

“I emailed 10 students, and all 10 wrote me a letter,” Paulk said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Graduate student Indigo Fort said Paulk is currently her Family Studies graduate coordinator and adviser, as well as “a forever mentor, life coach, confidant (and) superwoman.”

“Every time she has ever encouraged me to do something, it has always been to better myself and find something new within me,” Fort said. “She’s honestly past due to receive an award at such a level.”

Alumnae Kali Seaton said she had Paulk as both her professor and adviser, and she thinks of her as a hard worker. She also loves Paulk’s positive attitude.

“From day one, I could tell she loved her job,” Seaton said. “She was always so upbeat, positive and happy to be there. A positive attitude is contagious, so I enjoyed class even more because of (it).”

Paulk said while she wants to be a full professor one day, she would also like to host an orientation session for incoming faculty on “getting beyond the checklist.”

“I think that (advising is) not something we get taught in graduate school,” she said.

The ceremony will take place at the NACADA Annual Conference in St. Louis.

Paulk will also receive a one-year NACADA membership and have her name published in the September issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.