Robert Stephens, assistant director of graduate student services at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing, was honored recently with an ‘Excellence in Advising Administration’ award from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). Stephens was the sole recipient of this national award for NACADA’s Region IV territory, consisting of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. He accepted this award at the association’s national meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Stephens received five letters of support for the award, including letters from the dean, associate dean for graduate affairs, and three faculty members.

Jean D’Meza Leuner, dean of the UCF College of Nursing, wrote, “Mr. Stephens brings a level of commitment and dedication to his work that is unprecedented; he is most deserving of this honor and recognition.”

Christopher Blackwell, an associate professor, believes Stephens’ greatest strength lies in his incredible rapport with students. “He is always friendly, respectful, and responsive to students’ needs. Students consistently give him high accolades for his outstanding approach to advising; and students identify Mr. Stephens as an advocate and even a role model.”

With more than ten years’ experience working in an advising capacity, Stephens was promoted last year from coordinator to associate director of graduate student services. In his current position, he directs every aspect of the graduate admissions and advisement process for all master’s and doctoral programs, including recruitment, admissions, progression and graduation; oversees daily operations of the college’s graduate office, including supervision of two support personnel; and remains the first and main point of contact for all graduate students in the UCF College of Nursing.

Stephens says his advisement philosophy centers on creating an environment where students take responsibility for their academic careers. He achieves this by establishing a mutual relationship built on trust through open communication and teamwork.

“These attributes enable me to be an effective administrator and gives our students confidence in navigating through our graduate programs.”

Susan Chase, associate dean for graduate affairs, agrees. “Mr. Stephens is able to blend encouraging support, clear communication and maintenance of high standards in all his communication with applicants. He is the model graduate adviser; and his creative efforts as well as his tireless work with applicants and students merit his receiving of this award.”

Founded in 1979, the National Academic Advising Association promotes the quality of academic advising in institutions of higher education. NACADA is dedicated to the support and professional growth of academic advisors, administrators, and the advising profession. Through its publications and conferences, NACADA provides a forum for discussion, debate and the exchange of ideas regarding the role of advising in higher education.