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Poland, Widders, Griffin, and Atkins honored with Evans Advising Award

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Left to right: Michelle Poland, Barbara Griffin, Carolyn Peluso Atkins and Evan Widders.

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West Virginia University is honoring four outstanding student advisers with the 2017 Nicholas Evans Excellence in Advising Award.

The award was established by the Office of the Provost to honor outstanding mentoring by both professional and faculty advisers. It was created in honor of Dr. Nicholas Evans, a former professor of English and administrator who championed high-quality undergraduate advising throughout his career at WVU.

The Evans Award recipients for 2016-2017 are:

·         Barbara Griffin, program manager and senior adviser, Regents Bachelor of Arts Program

·         Michelle Poland, academic success program coordinator, Fundamentals of Engineering Program

·         Evan Widders, clinical associate professor and coordinator, Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies Programs

·         Carolyn Peluso Atkins, professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, director, Speech Pathology and Audiology Undergraduate Program

In her nearly 44-year career at WVU, Barbara Griffin has worked in computer operations and the Office of Financial Aid. Most recently, she has spent nine years in the RBA program, which recently moved to the College of Education and Human Services. She is a member of the Staff Council and the chair of the Tuition Assistance Program and serves on both the WVU Academic Advising Council and on the National Academic Advising Association. She has been involved with several documentary projects on campus, such as Cancer Stories, The Veterans History Project, and West Virginians Remember World War II.

Griffin compared the advising process to the process of creating a documentary, noting that learning about her advisees’ backgrounds, families, goals and personalities helps her to “produce” their experiences as they move toward graduation and other future endeavors.

Michelle Poland advises 200-250 freshman in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources each semester. She also leads New Student Orientation efforts, organizes the College’s Welcome Week activities, directs the Eugene V. Cilento Learning Center and is a member of the WVU Advising Development Collaborative.

“Advising is my passion,” said Poland. “I love coming to the office each day knowing that I am able to help make a positive impact in a student’s life.  My favorite part of advising is getting to know each student. We have some spectacular future engineers doing some pretty amazing things!”

In addition to heading up the MDS Program in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, Evan Widders is a member of the WVU Faculty Senate and serves as the chair of the Senate’s Teaching and Assessment Committee. His research interests are interdisciplinary and focus on fostering student academic success, retention and programmatic and post-baccalaureate assessment.

“When I am advising, I try to remember that the ties you make with your students are not only with them, but also bind you to their entire family,” said Widders. “The things we do as advisors to help young men and women graduate and improve their prospects also enrich the lives of those closest to them.” 

Over the course of a 39-year career in the WVU College of Education and Human Services, Carolyn Peluso Atkins has been recognized for her service to both the university and the profession. She has also been honored for her teaching numerous times, both at WVU and state-wide. Atkins has served on more than 100 university committees and been named an Outstanding WVU Honors Adviser. She describes advising as a critical component of higher education because it is often the only time students meet face-to-face with someone who is interested in their journey to graduation.

“Advising provides me with the opportunity to expose students to their options, to encourage them to explore the wealth of opportunities before them and to remind them of the value of education,” Atkins said.

All four Evans Advising Awards recipients will be recognized by President Gordon Gee and Provost Joyce McConnell at the faculty and staff awards dinner at Blaney House this month. Each will also receive $1250 in professional development support.



CONTACT: Ryan Claycomb, Associate Dean, WVU Honors College, Selection Committee Chair, Nicholas Evans Excellence in Advising Awards; 304.293.5864;

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