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School of Education staff member named KU's first Adviser of the Year

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sonja "Sony" Heath, center, accepts the KU Adviser of the Year award from Dean of Education Rick Ginsberg, left, and KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas staff member who assists with student programming beyond her academic unit was selected to be the first recipient of the KU Advising Network’s Adviser of the Year Award.

Sonja “Sony” Heath, senior academic advising coordinator in the School of Education, was honored at an event in mid-May. The KU Advising Network, with support of the Office of Undergraduate Studies, established the award to promote and encourage recognition of outstanding academic advising service to KU students.

“Advisers play such an important role in the student experience,” said DeAngela Burns-Wallace, vice provost for undergraduate studies. “They aren’t front and center like the faculty, but advisers connect students to coursework and resources that allow them to stay on track while they pursue their personal and professional goals. Our advisers empower students to fulfill their dreams, and that work deserves recognition.”

Heath, a KU alumna, has been a staff member since 2011 and has been in her current position in the School of Education since 2013. She advises admitted students focusing on elementary and secondary history and government education, and students pursuing the education studies minor. She coordinates the school’s orientation efforts, recruitment events and supervises student employees. Heath’s involvement in the KU community is extensive and includes facilitating for Colors of KU, Safe Zone, LeaderShape, KU’s Bringing in the Bystander and more.

Nominees for the award must be in a role where they directly advise students. All nominees were evaluated on several qualities and practices that demonstrate effective advising and distinguish an outstanding adviser. Characteristics went beyond occupational knowledge and included advocacy for students and student success, campus and community engagement, cultural competency, inclusiveness, leadership and more.

Two others also were recognized at the event for their advising strength, campus activity and involvement. Denise Farmer, senior academic adviser in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Jessica Stringer, academic adviser in the Undergraduate Advising Center, were both acknowledged as finalists for this year’s honor.

The KU Advising Network supports the academic advising community by providing professional development, social, and networking opportunities. The network consists of various standing and ad hoc committees, which are supported by committee chairs and the Office of Undergraduate Studies. Members volunteer their time to the committees of their choice. Representatives from the KU Advising Network serve on various campus and departmental committees. Advisers’ input helps administrators as they consider ways to improve student success.


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#1 public program in nation for special education
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Assists public schools and other partners in all 105 Kansas counties
$938,377 in scholarship funds awarded to 420+ students
Research expenditures of $36,804,773 for 2011-12
Research from KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, assists educators, children, and families across the United States
The award-winning special education faculty published 140 refereed articles, 11 books, and 60 chapters in 2015-16
Students with intellectual disabilities are participating in KU undergraduate programs through a grant-funded KU special education program
Researchers on a $3.5 million grant are collecting data on an innovative reading program designed to teach reading to students with the most significant disabilities in seven Kansas school districts
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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