Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment has opened a new center for student advising. 

“We have created a new structure and space, as well as added staff, to better serve our students, faculty, employers, and the college,” Dean Paul Winistorfer said.

The new model for recruiting and advising students, which utilizes the knowledge and skills of professional advisers and career counselors, is one that more and more American colleges are following. “These changes will help us provide a higher quality experience for our students and capture opportunities to continue the college’s enrollment growth,” Winistorfer explained.

Among the changes are renaming the former Academic Programs Office as the Advising Center.

“Sometimes students don’t know what they can do with a major in the college. We want to show students the opportunities — to offer career planning even as we recruit,” said Stephanie Lang, who was named director of the Advising Center in August.

“In addition to careers related to the environment, conservation, forestry, wildlife, fisheries, and meteorology that people associate with the college, there are opportunities in business, life sciences, materials, engineering, and information technology, for instance,” she added.

Previously every student was assigned to a faculty advisor. Now first-year students, transfer students, and rising sophomores are assigned to the Advising Center’s academic advisors for course and schedule planning. A recruitment and career development coordinator helps students consider a career as they enroll and later helps prepare them to present themselves to potential employers through resume preparation and mock interviews.

Faculty members continue to act as mentors, providing guidance on internships, careers, and the potential offered by graduate study. Current students who were initially assigned to faculty members will continue to be advised by them until the students graduate.

Ashley Clark, the college’s new academic advisor, works with students to evaluate and create course plans. “The role of the academic advisor is to help with the nuts and bolts, such as course planning, selecting electives, and keeping track of what courses the student still needs to complete,” Lang said.

John Gray Williams, the new recruitment and career development coordinator, is the travel and outreach face of the college. Visits to high school counselors and science teachers are among his priorities as well as interfacing with such groups as 4-H to recruit students who have a love of natural resources. He is already involved with prospective students and arranges for some of them to meet with current students. He is also recruiting more student ambassadors, who work closely with the Advising Center, serving as guides and representing the college at events.

Clark earned a bachelor’s degree in animal and poultry science and a master’s degree in career and technical education from Virginia Tech. She had been undergraduate coordinator in animal and poultry science since April 2014 and was previously the graduate coordinator in agricultural economics. She also taught agriculture education at the high school level.

Williams has bachelor’s degrees in geography and in public and urban affairs from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in counseling in higher education from the University of Delaware. He had been an advisor in Virginia Tech’s Career Services since July 2012.

Lang is also a Hokie, having earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and her master’s degree in education administration at Virginia Tech. She worked in advising at Florida International University in Miami and then returned to Tech as coordinator of advising in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

Eric Wiseman, associate professor of urban forestry in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, is the interim associate dean of academic programs. He represents the college in university governance and assists with special student needs.

Other office staff include Cathy Barker, student services coordinator, who tracks course proposals and is in charge of enrollment data, and Renee Dillon, academic programs support specialist.

Geography and meteorology students will continue to be advised by Maureen Deisinger, the geography department’s academic advisor, who has served in that role since fall 2010.