UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Garrett Huck, associate professor of rehabilitation and human services at Penn State Hazleton, and Mary Sergeant, lead academic adviser in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, have been selected to receive the 2023 Penn State Excellence in Advising Award.
The award, established by the former Undergraduate Student Government’s Academic Assembly and sponsored by each college, annually honors one full-time professional adviser and one full-time faculty member from any Penn State location who have at least two years of advising experience. Selection criteria are based on excellence in general advising, academic and career guidance, enthusiasm and assistance in decision-making, and goal setting.
One of Huck’s students said he’s one of the most genuine faculty members on campus and is willing to help any student, even those he doesn’t advise.
“He has worked alongside me all four years in college, not only as an adviser but as my professor, and he never fails to go above and beyond for his students,” a student said. “He has helped me with finding internships and offered flexibility for me as a student juggling being a mom with college. He has worked after hours to help readjust my schedule and is always understanding that college is a struggle.”
Nominators were impressed with Huck’s “nine pillars of practice,” which include the “recognition of diversity, knowledge and resource accessibility, assertive outreach, creativeness, approachability, collaboration, a future orientation, careful documentation, and rapport building” formed from both personal and professional experiences.
Huck, who has been a faculty adviser for eight years, said he’s guided by his own experiences as a student and professional. He said he views his role as an adviser beyond helping a student earn a degree. His role, he said, was to help students pursue their passions and do it successfully.
“I view my role as an academic adviser as that of a student guide, not only in one’s pursuit of a Penn State degree, but more importantly, in a student’s ultimate pursuit of achieving life satisfaction and success in their future careers,” Huck said. “This charge is not one to be taken lightly, and one I practice with enthusiasm, empathy, compassion and determination. We play an essential part in our students’ successes. To be in a position in which we can have a positive influence over someone else’s life is one that we as faculty should cherish, relish and handle with care.”
Sergeant has been an academic adviser for 21 of her 26 years at Penn State and was nominated by several of her students.
“Her supportive words and true empathy she shows is unmatched,” a student said. “The way I felt when I walked out of her office for the first time was unlike my experiences with any other faculty.”
Nominators were impressed with Sergeant’s dedication to her students and formulating her advising philosophy on the “belief that every student comes to college with a unique set of skills, talents and desires; and the role of an academic adviser is to help guide students to find their strengths to achieve their short- and long-term goals, both academic and otherwise.”
Nominators said Sergeant has a keen understanding of the momentous impact an adviser can have on their students, and is on a constant quest to create a safe place for students to thrive. She forms lasting relationships with her students that make them feel comfortable and able to ask for help when they need it.
Sergeant views herself as an advocate for her students. She knows how stressful college can be, and she wants to see her students succeed. Witnessing their successes, she said, is one of the great perks of the job.
“Being able to see students’ progress through their journey at Penn State until they cross the stage for graduation is truly what this job is all about,” Sergeant said. “My job is not to just help these students schedule classes every semester. For some of these students, you are their support system. They confide in you, they trust you, and, over time, you build relationships with these students and are proud of their accomplishments in a way a parent would be. I thrive in situations where students feel comfortable confiding in me, and even if I’m unable to solve their problem, I can facilitate in other ways.”