Shannon, Hurley receive Excellence in Advising Awards

University Park, Pa. -- The 2006 Penn State Excellence in Advising Awards will be presented to Robert Shannon and Brent Hurley. The award, established by the Undergraduate Student Government's Academic Assembly, annually honors one full-time faculty member and one full-time professional adviser from any Penn State location who have at least two years of advising experience. The award acknowledges excellence in advising, academic and career guidance, enthusiasm and assistance to students in decision-making and goal-setting.

Shannon is program coordinator for the environmental resource management (ERM) major and associate professor of agricultural engineering within the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State University Park. He has been a University faculty member since 1995 and has served as program coordinator since 2002.

"Playing a role in students' lives and helping them realize and achieve their potential is rewarding, exciting and challenging, and I take my responsibilities as a role model, mentor and student advocate seriously," said Shannon. "One of the most rewarding aspects of undergraduate advising is helping students develop and achieve their post-graduation career and professional goals."

To help environmental resource management majors focus on their work life following graduation, he teaches a required one-credit course to all students new to the University Park program. In that class, students complete a "personal and professional development plan" (PDP) that addresses the remainder of their academic career and beyond. He also invites ERM alumni to speak to the class.

"The course is a great advising tool because the PDP and interactions with alumni form the basis of further one-on-one discussions with my advisees about their academic and career interests, as well as other extracurricular activities during their academic careers," he explained.

Shannon's course also complements the college's mentoring program because many of the speakers become mentors to his advisees. Students praise Shannon for his encouragement of their efforts and his dedication to giving ERM students a sense of community.

Hurley began his advising career in 1998 as a public elementary school counselor. Since 2002 he has worked as an academic counselor at the University Park campus, currently as senior undergraduate studies adviser in the Division of Undergraduate Studies.

Informed by his professional experiences as both a school counselor and mental-health therapist, Hurley approaches his work with kindness, honesty and compassion, and he believes that an academic adviser should always attempt to treat students with equity and courtesy.

"I have learned that people want to know how much I care before they care how much I know," he explained. "With this in mind, I try to be consistently friendly with and considerate of my students."

Hurley has been cited for his supportive, approachable nature. Students also value his sincere concern, particularly in situations beyond the academic setting.

"The presenting problem a student discusses when dropping by the office is often not the real issue a keen adviser will end up dealing with," he said. "I usually do not give advice, but often ask thought-provoking questions, which help lead students to see 'the big picture' and make decisions independently."

Hurley also serves on several community and University boards of directors, including the AIDS Project of Centre and Clinton Counties and the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity at Penn State; he is CLGBTE co-chair elect for the 2006-2007 academic year.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010