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Award-winning Advisor

January 13, 2020 Jim Warner

“I pursued fine arts as an undergrad, but the opportunity to pursue my fine arts degree was given to me by an advisor.” Katie Ethridge’s area of study focused on photography, and while she had a chance to work in her field, her love of both UofL and a desire to make a difference altered her career trajectory. 

“It was an advisor who pushed me to study art… I want to help people find that connection and discover what they are passionate about.” Helping students discover their passion has, in turn, helped Katie hone her path—one which was recently recognized by the Education Advisory Board (EAB). At the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA)’s annual conference this fall, Katie was named as one of three recipients of the 2019 EAB Advising Excellence Awards. This award comes on the heels of being named a Cardinal Spirit Award winner this past fall by the College of Business for exemplifying the defining traits which make the College a wonderful place to work.  

Katie’s five-year journey with advising has been an evolution. From providing triage-level student support as a front desk advisor, Katie’s current role as Academic Counselor, Sr. has allowed her to develop deeper ties with her students. “It’s been great getting to know students and having more meaningful conversations beyond talking about what classes to take or drop. I get to learn what our students’ motivations are for being here at the College. It’s what I really love about the job.” 

From those bonds comes the ability to truly offer advice and insight into a student’s life. “Having these relationships allows us to build trust and give students the confidence to ask the hard questions—that’s where it really matters.” Engaging and connecting with students in sustaining ways is itself a learning curve, and Katie’s investment in her students is tangible. Katie currently works with the College’s Living Learning Community, TILE, teaching the CAMP 100 class. As students filter into the Horn Auditorium to hear guest lecturer Mark Hohmann (CFO, Goodwill Industries of Kentucky), the students all check in with her. They are eager to share the travails and triumphs of another school week.

Katie takes her time with each of them, as well as getting Mr. Hohmann ready for his talk. “In the same ways that the job can be emotionally taxing, it’s emotionally rewarding. 

Seeing the successes—even in the smallest of wins, like being able to move an exam schedule—matters to me.”

Defining success at large is hard because it’s not something that can be found just in numbers. For example, Katie advocates for her students’ mental health, knowing that better well-being may not always reflect a traditional sense of success in terms of grades. “NACADA has a great visual that breaks down an advisor’s responsibility… the student’s needs, the institution’s needs, the department’s needs, our own needs as an advisor. You have a responsibility to all those parties, equally…understanding all those pieces so you can relay them to one another [is important].”

Katie credits part of her success as an advisor to the College of Business and the freedom to innovate. “I’ve had some unique opportunities to develop programs here that I may not have been able to elsewhere. Working on something like TILE with [fellow advisor] Shelley Tewell couldn’t happen just anywhere.” As she presented at the NACADA conference on the success of the LLC, the feedback from counselors at other schools trying to launch similar programs has been decidedly varied from the collaborative environment presented at UofL. “The College of Business supported me, my supervisors supported me—everyone from staff to faculty have helped get the living-learning community going as well as figuring out to plug their programs in and help our students… The College has provided me a unique opportunity to make those connections and build this program.”

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