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Staff spotlight: UM leader wins international academic advising administrator award

Brigitte Wiebe is first Canadian to be recognized in category

October 28, 2019 — 

The transition to university for many students can be overwhelming.

Academic advisors help ease the transition to university life and support students throughout their academic journey. They assist students with a wide-range of issues and promote learning opportunities to help students attain their educational goals.

While they are not always recognized as a significant piece of the academic puzzle, academic advisors work behind the scenes to support students in their academic success.

Contributions recognized with international, distinguished award

Brigitte Wiebe, university advising services coordinator, student engagement and success, has been supporting student success for over 30 years at the U of M, and now her efforts have been recognized in an extraordinary way.

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising awarded Wiebe with a Certificate of Merit of the Outstanding Advising AwardAcademic Advising Administrator; an exceptionally competitive and highly distinguished award.

This is the first time an academic administrative advisor from a Canadian university or college has been awarded by the influential international body.

Karin Nowak-Bailey, undergraduate program administrator, Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management, nominated Wiebe for the award.

Nowak-Bailey describes Wiebe as, “a teacher, leader, mentor, and most of all an inspiration to our community.”

“Brigitte exemplifies all of the criteria of this award and is due for recognition that she undoubtedly deserves.”

Wiebe’s contributions were formally recognized last week at the NACADA Global Awards Ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky. 

Wiebe’s role and achievement

This dynamic UM Leader has had a lasting impact on our community. Her contributions have been instrumental in standardizing academic advising and enriching the student experience.

In her role, Wiebe helps ensure a consistent and comprehensive student advising experience across all faculties and colleges. Wiebe brings together over 120 decentralized academic advisors, advising administrators and student service professionals. She fosters collaboration and cooperation between the academic advisors and is the link between the vice-provost (students) and front-line advisors. 

She has been a strategic liaison for UM Achieve, the highly successfully degree audit software, and Career Compass, an online resource designed to help students develop a stronger connection between their studies and career choice.

As a life-longer learner, Wiebe values professional development and leads various learning opportunities for her UM colleagues. She has developed online training resources, coordinates the University of Manitoba Advisors’ Exchange and has organized several academic advising conferences.

 

HR interviewed Brigitte for UM Today about her role and being recognized with this prestigious award.

How do you see your role at the university?

This role I’m in, which I believe is a one-of-a-kind in Manitoba (so cheers to U of M!), is at the centre of many of the working parts of student progression. 

I’m able to connect across the many unique communities of our institution. I’m based in Student Affairs and have linkages with other groups such as the Registrar’s Office, Career Services, the International Centre, but also have connections with advisors in academic units, with individuals working to develop technological resources, and other services supporting students and the institution. 

Because of this wide reach, I am able to link people in ways that might not have happened previously. I’m able to address gaps in processes and am able to connect people across the silos, which sometimes feel like they are blocking progression. 

I support advisors and provide opportunities to develop their roles and capacities. I support the development of a clear understanding of advising at this university. 

My role is to create a common understanding of the value of advising as a key component of student academic success.

 

What impact do academic advisors have on the UM community?

I see advising as the eyes and ears on student progress at all levels of the institution.

Advisors are key individuals in creating student academic success. Advisors guide students as they enter the institution; we encourage their progress, we provide advice and teach about ways to understand the programs chosen by students.

We find ways to eliminate potential and real roadblocks when they occur. We provide opportunities to actively engage students in their own degree and course progression, leading them to achieve personal and career goals, which ultimately results in graduation. 

We create relationships that encourage student success, which then deepen engagement of students in their degree progress and completion.

 

There must have been many changes at the university in the last 30 years. What have been some of the highlights?

At the transactional level, some interesting changes revolve around the use of technology. When I started in my faculty-based role, we used a paper system to register students. That evolved to telephone and is now based in electronic systems. We continue to develop processes and supports for students, including a degree audit system (UM Achieve) and Career Compass.  Many or most units now have professional advisors working with students—it’s no longer a role that takes place on the side of your desk.  

There are also advising coordinators, or student services managers, who wear several hats, and are focused on a combination of administrative and advising roles that support student success.  

We are developing and using advising competencies in our work with students. Advisors are given time to participate in webinars and workshops that focus on advising. Advising roles are competitive and highly sought after in our institution.

 

This is a high honour to receive this international award and be the first Canadian to do so. What does winning this award mean to you?

This award recognizes the importance of academic advising as a lynch pin in creating positive outcomes for student academic progression. I’ve spent my career developing an advising perspective, working through administrative and institutional processes and finding ways to use advising to allow students to be their best. 

Creating opportunities for student success has been meaningful and positive, and the award acknowledges my advising work in the post-secondary world.

 

Congratulations Brigitte on this achievement! Thank you for making a difference at the University of Manitoba!

 

 

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