Dr. Anne-Marie Lerner, University of Wisconsin-Platteville assistant department chair and professor of mechanical engineering calls advising her students one of the most gratifying parts of working in higher education. Lerner is being honored with the 2020 Outstanding Faculty/Instructional Academic Staff Academic Advisor Award.
“Advising allows me to have a personal one-on-one relationship with my students,” said Lerner, who is also a certified academic coach. “We can explore who are you as a person, how do you want to fit into the fabric of life or in your community, and be the best you and the contributing you to society.”
Lerner advises about 60 mechanical engineering students a year. Her goal during their initial meeting is to learn more about them, why they chose to enter the field of engineering, their career aspirations and their favorite hobbies. She continues to build upon those questions throughout the school year.
“I try to find common ground. It’s letting them in and letting them see my human side. It’s not just a one and done, it’s every single visit,” said Lerner. “I invite my advisees to come in and talk about everything they are thinking about. I let them know it’s a great time to talk about career direction, concerns they may have, setting themselves up for a great academic year. It really helps students see I’m not just here to handout advising pins.”
This past semester marked a challenging time for UW-Platteville students as the university transitioned into alternative delivery due to COVID-19. However, Lerner remained in touch with her advisees through online tools.
“It’s still leading with how are you doing? How are you handling this? Are you still able to keep in touch with your friends? Taking care of the human side. Reassuring them this has been a wild ride this past semester. We are going to take care of you. It’s going to be okay,” she said.
As the university is set to welcome students back for campus-based learning this fall, Lerner is looking forward to seeing her students in person.
“I have missed them,” Lerner said. “School really is never the same without the students. August is always nice to see your colleagues, but it’s even better with the students back.”
As Lerner prepares for the upcoming semester, she reflects on how proud she is to see the transformation of her advisees as they navigate their collegiate career from their first day on campus to graduation.
“I go to commencement every semester,” she said. “I love being able to meet their parents, significant others and see them in their robes and walk across the stage. It’s so exciting.”
And after they graduate, Lerner appreciates when alumni come back and visit.
“It’s so amazing,” she said. “To see them having families and becoming really established in their community. It’s really cool to watch how they have gone off and blossomed. Going back and seeing how they have built their lives; it’s really fun.”