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NACADA Selects Gomez, Ferrara, Cigularova for National Advising Awards

photo of Edwin GomezEdwin Gomez photo of Katie FerraraKatie Ferrara photo of Daniela CigularovaDaniela Cigularova

Edwin Gomez, associate professor of human movement sciences in the Darden College of Education, was selected recently as the winner of a national Outstanding Advising Award in the Faculty Academic Advising category by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).

Two other ODU employees, Katie Ferrara, college advisor in the College of Health Sciences, and Daniela Cigularova, assistant director of Enrollment and Student Services at the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, also were selected for 2013 NACADA national awards.

Ferrara won a certificate of merit in the New Advising Professional category and Cigularova won a certificate of merit in the Outstanding Advising Administrator category. Earlier this year, both Ferrara and Cigularova received NACADA Region 2 advising awards.

The national awards will be presented at the NACADA annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 6-9.

Gomez, who coordinates the advising each semester for the more than 200 students enrolled in the Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies program, has served as a faculty advisor for more than 13 years.

Sandra Waters, assistant dean for Advising and Transfer Programs, who nominated him for the award, noted that Gomez brings enthusiasm to his role as an advisor. "His students are truly beneficiaries of his advising philosophy," she said. "The letters received for his nomination for the ODU award tout his ability to connect with his students and provide them with the learning experiences necessary for their success.

Ryan Barbosa, a December 2012 graduate, wrote: "Transferring from smaller universities made me think that I would not receive as much one-on-one attention. However, I was incorrect and Dr. Gomez deserves all the credit. ... Dr. Gomez not only made me feel wanted as an advisee and student, he also made me feel very calm and comfortable that I made the right decision to attend ODU."

Colleagues of Gomez also supported his nomination, including the chair of the Department of Human Movement Sciences, Robert Spina, who wrote: "For students to feel so favorably of their advisor reveals a lot of information on how Dr. Gomez approaches advising. It is clear to me that he establishes a professional relationship with his students and serves as an outstanding role model. Dr. Gomez truly gets the value of effective advising and realizes this goes well beyond students just getting a class schedule each semester."

Spina added: "As we all are keenly aware, the issues of retention and timely paths to graduation are critical in higher education. In addition, we all realize that effective and engaged advising is an important strategy in high rates of retention and time to degree. The PRST at Old Dominion University is a perfect example. The retention rate is over 80 percent and the graduation rate is very favorable over a five-year period because PRST tends to be more of a 'discovery' major. Much of this success is due to the extra effort Dr. Gomez puts into advising."

This was the third year in a row that ODU advisors have been recognized at the Region 2 level, and the second year the university has had two winners out of the four main categories.

Ferrara has served as an academic advisor at ODU for two years. Currently, she is an advisor for new students interested in majoring in the health professions. Her duties include meeting individually with each new student twice the first semester. She also provides academic support services specifically for students in the program who are in academic difficulty.

"As a new advisor, Katie has implemented her philosophy of advising fully," said Waters, who nominated her for the award. In her letter, Waters included several comments that Ferrara's students had submitted to her supervisor, Sandra Breeden. One student wrote: "Katie is always so helpful. She answers all of my questions and always has me in her best interest. I feel as though she was invaluable to me in planning my future."

Faculty members in the College of Health Sciences also supported the nomination, including Scott Sechrist, associate chair of the School of Medical Laboratory and Radiation Sciences.

"She truly is my 'go-to' person for all issues and questions regarding advising my students," Sechrist wrote in a letter of recommendation. "Beyond knowing the technical details of our curricula, Katie understands the nuances of each of the health sciences programs - I have seen her advise one student on the phone, respond to an email with another issue, and move right into a one-on-one advising one of my students with a smile, all the while helping students make critical decisions regarding their majors. Her eye for detail within our curricula is balanced by a 'big picture' viewpoint of the students and their extracurricular lives that all successful advisors should have."

Cigularova served as the acting assistant director at VBHEC for two years before being selected for the job permanently a year ago. During this time, she became involved as an active participant in the ODU Excellence in Advising Committee, particularly representing issues for students not attending classes on the main campus.

"Indeed the scope and scale of Daniela's advising and student success administration, collaboration and hands-on academic advising are unique and distinct within Old Dominion University, and her efforts have reaped tremendous benefits for the academic community at ODU-VB. For the students themselves, and in fact for the entire university, her efforts and those of her staff are actually felt on main campus since a number of students attend classes in both locations, or are in online or hybrid courses rather than exclusively on-site at the Beach," said Renee Olander, associate vice president, ODU Regional Higher Education Centers, who nominated Cigularova for the award.

In a supporting letter of recommendation, Waters wrote: "We at ODU consider ourselves very lucky to have found such a student-focused person to manage advising duties at our flagship higher education center. Because of Daniela's background working in advising-related roles at the Colorado State University-Fort Collins, and at a university in her native Bulgaria, she brings a depth of understanding diverse student issues and skills that have helped her streamline processes and offer programs for her students."