Lindsay Freeman wins VCU Advising Award!

Getting good information to make important career decisions is especially critical in these challenging times. That is why we are particularly proud to announce that Center for Environmental Studies Undergraduate Academic Advisor Lindsay Freeman was just awarded the 2019 -2020 VCU  “Excellence in Advising” award. The competition was stiff with over 150 advisors across VCU and 9 specifically nominated in this category this year. Congratulations, Lindsay!

The “Excellence in Advising- Primary Role” award was given by the Undergraduate Academic Advising Board (UAAB) Award Committee. The goal of the UAAB Awards Program is to encourage wider support and recognition of outstanding advising at Virginia Commonwealth University. Awards are presented across five different categories to individuals who have demonstrated excellence in advising, innovation, and administration. Lindsay has also been nominated to be considered for the National Academic Advising Association  (NACADA) Regional Award competition.

Dr. James Vonesh, Director of the Undergraduate Program in the Center for Environmental Studies, commented on this recognition,

Lindsay Freeman is an invaluable member of the Environmental Studies leadership team and a leader in academic advising across the university. This is reflected in the fact that Environmental Studies undergraduate advising is ranked in the top 5% of all programs at VCU and Lindsay’s student evaluation scores are outstanding–consistently well above the university average. Under Lindsay, excellence in academic advising has become part of the Environmental Studies major “brand” – it is something we highlight during new student recruitment activities.

Lindsay Freeman ENVS advisor wins REAL Challenge Award

Results from the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Survey released in 2019 revealed that Environmental Studies advising is ranked third out of the 59 undergraduate academic programs at VCU. That success is solely due to Linday’s efforts, as she is the only academic advisor for Environmental Studies. Based on a sample of 288 advising sessions Lindsay received the highest rating “5 out of 5 –  Excellent” by 99.3% of the students (all scores were positive).

Lindsay is a tireless advocate for students. In 2018 – 2019, she held 728 one-on-one advising appointments totaling more than 360 hrs with VCU students.  Considering that Environmental Studies has approximately 200 majors, it is obvious that most students are having multiple meetings with Lindsay. This doesn’t include the additional contact she has with students through email. One student describes an anecdote that exemplifies how Lindsay advocates for students,

The most touching and stand out moment for me and when I knew Ms. Freeman was different from all the other advisers and even some professors I have had, was last semester. I had mentioned I really wanted to take a course but it was full at the time. Ms. Freeman told me not to worry and wait until add/drop week. As I was sitting at home finishing some homework I noticed a new email in my inbox. … Ms. Freeman had sent me an email, regarding the class I had mentioned to her weeks ago, letting me know there was one opening! I could not believe it. My adviser had not only taken time to personally write me but had remembered the exact class that I was so desperate to get into.

Another of Lindsay’s strengths is her ability to make students feel welcome. Of the 77 students that provided written comments on Lindsay’s advising, 100% were strongly positive, and many speak directly to Lindsay’s interpersonal skills. For example,

Lindsay has really helped my transition to VCU be a positive and exciting experience! I’m very grateful for all of her hard work. She responds to my emails quickly and with very helpful information and resources. All of our meetings have been helpful and encouraging. She really makes an effort to provide students with all of their options and is thorough in her advising. I can feel that she wants to set me up for success and that’s extremely important to me! Aside from her exceptional work ethic, she has a great attitude and personality! Very happy with my first semester here at VCU (in large part due to the efforts of Lindsay).

Graduation requirements can seem overwhelming to some students. Lindsay is excellent at helping students figure out the best path forward and often helps to uncover solutions that help fit the specific situation of individual students. She excels at helping students navigate written and oral information and directions about our program so they can make good choices about course work and graduate in a timely manner. One student writes,

Freeman really knows her stuff. You walk into her office with a list of questions feeling confused, and walk out of her office feeling like your life is all mapped out, supplemented with a list of things you need. She is also incredibly organized and always on top of it. I have never had such a competent adviser before.

Lindsay’s student evaluations are full of comments like these examples.

In addition to working to help students succeed, Lindsay is also a critical liaison with faculty. One faculty member says of Lindsay,

Ever since I transitioned over to Life Sciences with teaching responsibilities in CES, Lindsay has been exceptionally helpful every step of the way. No matter what types of questions I have for Lindsay regarding institutional regulations, policies or procedures or if the questions involve prerequisites for students and classes or helping me to override additional students in my classes, Lindsay has been the consummate colleague and professional. She is always willing to help out in any way she can and always has an “open door” policy (which I greatly appreciate). Lindsay is truly a “champion” for our students and our program and I enthusiastically support her nomination for this award as she exemplifies “Excellence in Advising” at VCU.

Lindsay has continued to grow her capacity for leadership through her contribution to multiple university committees and has actively engaged in maintaining and improving her skills as an adviser.  She completed 8 different training activities and participated in an advising conference this past year alone. She brings this organizational knowledge back to the unit, helping others and the program succeed.

Just a few weeks ago, Linday was awarded one of the VCU Relevant Experiential and Applied Learning (REAL) 2019-2020 inaugural Challenge Grants. This inaugural competition was fierce – with only 13% of proposed projects receiving funding. Lindsay’s project, titled “Building a Pipeline for better Environmental Studies Internships & Careers” will couple an informal expert speaker series with a single credit “Paths to Internship” course to reduce barriers and increase access to these critical experiences. The project builds on the success of her Careers & Conversations (C&C) speaker series and takes advantage of VCU’s proximity to Virginia’s capital by bringing in a diverse set of speakers from state agencies as well as professionals from environmental consulting firms and NGOs.  By featuring representatives from public and private careers across the policy to science spectrum, we will expose our students early on to a wide range of internship opportunities and careers.

Dr. Rodney Dyer, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies, has led Environmental Studies efforts in recent years to strengthen our program to make sure we provide students with the opportunity to cultivate the knowledge, skills, and creativity that will be required to address the critical environmental challenges of the future and develop meaningful careers in rapidly changing world.

Dr. Dyer comments that advising is playing a critical role in this transition,

The Environmental Studies academic programs have been undergoing a complete revision these past years and it has only been because of Lindsay’s continued efforts and dedication to the program that the students have successfully navigated all the changes.  It is no secret that Lindsay and the professional advising activities that she had developed are a huge part of the success of our academic programs.