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Simons Receives First-Year Student Advocate Award


JONESBORO — Dr. Jill Simons, dean of University College at Arkansas State University, has been honored with a First-Year Student Advocate Award by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina and Cengage Learning.

The award, now in its 26th year, honors college faculty, administrators, staff and students for their outstanding work on behalf of first-year students and for the impact their efforts have on the students and culture of their institutions. Ten award recipients have been chosen from 116 nominations.

This year’s recipients will be formally recognized on Feb. 8 at the annual Conference on the First-Year Experience in Dallas, Texas.

“Being singled out to receive recognition for what so many others do to promote student success is a complete honor,” Simons commented. “Having great students, faculty and staff to work alongside made this achievable.”

Simons was the first director of the Wilson Advising Center when it was established in the fall of 2000. Under her leadership, she initiated programs for undecided majors, and students on academic suspension and probation. She also designed and implemented the campus-wide early alert program for students in academic distress. More recently, she is working with the First-Year Experience program to develop a common reader and service-learning component.

Chancellor Tim Hudson emphasized the significance of Simons's recognition, given that the university is striving to raise A-State’s profile as a school of choice and boost student retention.

"Through the efforts of Dr. Simons and her associates, first-year students are having a very positive experience when they come to Arkansas State," Hudson said. "The innovation in the First-Year Experience, particularly the use of Apple technology, to create a digital curriculum for the courses is defining A-State as a national leader. Her dedication to assisting new students with adjusting to life on a destination campus is very deserving of this recognition from the National Resource Center."

She has been a key component of Arkansas State’s services for students since serving as a tutor coordinator in 1997-98. She was elevated to the director of Student Support Services in July 1998 and remained in that position until 2000. She served as the director of the Wilson Advising Center until June 2010, when she was promoted to executive director of University College and established the First Year Experience (FYE) advisory board and implemented the FYE Academic Expo.

In July 2013, she was named to her current position, dean of University College. Under her leadership, students are provided with comprehensive academic advising and mentoring support services for all first-year students, undeclared majors and special student populations to help clarify academic strengths.

University College also provides academic skills instruction to instill personal responsibility and prepare students for a successful transition through higher education, as well as make available an academic enrichment and learning support structure to enhance success toward attaining a degree.

The FYE program also provides opportunities for students to craft various responsibility projects. For example, in November 2013, A-State first-year students participated in a drill simulating a tornado disaster, with theater majors acting as victims, nursing majors serving as emergency responders, engineering students inspecting structural damage, and media and communications majors as working media and others. The goal was to expose students to the roles of various professions.

Following the drill, the FYE classes took the experience into the classroom into service-learning experiences, philanthropic causes and research projects. The students voted to raise money for a college that has undergone an actual natural disaster, so they chose the University of Colorado-Boulder and raised $521 through various outlets.

The project was carried out in support of A-State’s mission to educate leaders, enhance intellectual growth and enrich lives.

Including Simons, the recipients of the 2015 Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate Award are:

Gregory Budzban, professor and chair of mathematics, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Michele Campagna, executive director, Center for Advising and Student Transitions, Montclair State University; Frank Collins, senior instructor, Peng, University of New Brunswick; Richard Gebauer, director, First-Year Experience, Cabrini College; Christy Henry, assistant dean of academic resources/director of FYE, Wesleyan College; Vincent J. Kloskowski, III, assistant dean and director of the Academic Center, Saint Joseph’s College; Shannon McCasland, associate dean for student services, Aims Community College; Ann Seavey, director, Academic Support Center, Gordon College; Dr. Jill Simons, dean of University College, Arkansas State University; and Maria Villaseñor, associate professor, humanities and communication, California State University, Monterey Bay.

For more information about the award, the award recipients or the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, contact Amanda Jackson, conference assistant, (803) 576-6328, fjackson@mailbox.sc.edu.

Dr. Jill Simons
Dr. Jill Simons