Kuhn, Robinson receive 2018 Excellence in Advising Award

April 02, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rebekka Kuhn, academic adviser in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, and Brandi Robinson, faculty adviser for the Energy and Sustainability Policy program in the John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, have been selected to receive the 2018 Penn State Excellence in Advising Award.

The award, established by the former Undergraduate Student Government’s Academic Assembly and sponsored by each college, annually honors one full-time professional adviser and one full-time faculty member from any Penn State location who have at least two years of advising experience. Selection criteria are based on excellence in general advising, academic and career guidance, enthusiasm and assistance in decision making, and goal setting.

Kuhn, who works primarily with undecided and exploratory first- and second-year students, was nominated by a student.

“Every so often, you hear of that one teacher who impacts a student’s life dramatically. In this case, it’s an adviser,” said a student who nominated Kuhn. “Kuhn deserves this award because she goes above and beyond what’s expected of her. I was so conflicted on what to study, yet Kuhn steered me every step of the way, being careful not to let her advice overshadow my passions.”

The selection committee was impressed with Kuhn’s ability to evolve her advising talents through self-reflection and a clear understanding of the role that advising plays when working with undecided undergraduate students.

Through self-reflection and an evolution in the advising position, Kuhn said she’s learned to:

● continuously examine her own biases and background;

● create a safe space for students to express their viewpoints, share their backgrounds and ask questions;

● be transparent, honest and authentic; and

● remaining flexible and open-minded, demonstrating the ability to learn from failure and change course.

She said she actively listens to students and tries to empathize while not pretending to know precisely where they’re coming from.

Kuhn’s accomplishments include serving as co-coordinator for the Division of Undergraduate Studies’ Student Leadership Council, where she helped facilitate leadership development activities and to promote opportunities on campus. She and a colleague also established the Division of Undergraduate Studies’ Engaged Scholarship Program, which supports low-income and first-generation students.

“I believe that an undergraduate education is a time to reflect on who you are, explore who you want to be and discover how you want to contribute to this world,” Kuhn said. “I see my role as an educator and teacher whose responsibility it is to help each student construct a meaningful education both in and out of the classroom. I strive to help them uncover how they want to positively contribute to society and find meaning in their lives.”

Robinson, who primarily works in a program that’s offered through Penn State World Campus, works mostly with nontraditional students, most-often returning adult-learners. Students said Robinson’s deep understanding of their needs makes her a great adviser.

“Robinson is committed to and involved with my success at Penn State,” a student said. “She really gets to know her students. She reached out to me, unsolicited, to see if I was OK. It wasn’t just what she said, but knowing that she cared enough to ask how I was doing meant so much to me.”

Robinson said she knows the great leap that many of her students take to return to college and she wants to meet them with the same level of hard work and passion for bettering their future.

“Many of my students already work in the energy industry or another related field,” Robinson said. “Others are making a dramatic change, inspired by an earnest desire to have a positive impact on the world around them. For each of them, returning to school represents a seismic shift for their families, careers and finances. As an adviser, it’s my job to honor the seriousness of that choice and help them prepare for career success.”

Robinson aims to make the online learning experience similar to traditional learning, to bring students closer to campus even though they’re around the globe. One example of this is including her students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition, where one student living in Virginia showcased her poster via Skype.

Robinson said one of the earliest graduates of her program left a lasting impression on her. He was a veteran whose first pass through college had left him with a checkered transcript.

“He begged admissions to become a provisional student, and then proceeded to earn dean’s list every semester,” Robinson said. “I still keep up with him and the adventures he has had in several relevant positions since he graduated in 2012.”

Last Updated April 02, 2018