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02/29/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/29/2024 21:10

Meet This Year’s Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards Winners

Meet This Year's Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards Winners

Elizabeth Vassallo, Wheelock College of Education & Human Development director of undergraduate student services (left), and Merav Shohet, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of anthropology and director of undergraduate studies, have been named this year's Academic Advising Awards winners. Photos by Jackie Ricciardi

Awards

Meet This Year's Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards Winners

Honors go to Wheelock's Elizabeth Vassallo and Merav Shohet of CAS

February 29, 2024
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College can be hard.

You have more or less four years to figure out your life path and garner enough experience to pursue it, while also trying to do well in your classes. Add in things like extracurriculars, internships, and time to rest, and it can feel like you're constantly fighting an uphill battle.

That's why academic advisors are so crucial.

An advisor is often your first line of defense in your quest to graduate. They know you-your major and your courses, to be sure, but they also know what drives you and why you decided to pursue your studies in the first place. They're your advocate and your cheerleader, and are there to give you a (gentle) kick in the pants when you need it. Mostly, however, your advisor is your voice of reason amidst the chaos that constitutes a college career.

Every year, Boston University recognizes two exceptional undergraduate advisors with the Undergraduate Academic Advising Awards. This year, the honors go to Elizabeth Vassallo, Wheelock College of Education & Human Development director of undergraduate student services, and Merav Shohet, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor and director of undergraduate studies for anthropology.

"Your selection for this award reflects your outstanding contributions to academic advising and your exceptional work engaging and supporting our students," Amie Grills, associate provost for undergraduate affairs, wrote in letters notifying Shohet and Vassallo of their wins. "I know how incredibly rewarding, and challenging, this work can be and your continued commitment to your students is truly noteworthy. On behalf of Boston University, thank you and congratulations."

The awards recognize advisors "who have engaged students in the collaborative process of advising and have had a significant impact on students' academic careers." Winners receive $1,500. BU staff, faculty, and alumni are invited to nominate one candidate per category (awards are given to both a professional academic advisor and faculty academic advisor).

How did this year's winners come to be advising experts?

Vassallo, the 2024 professional advisor winner, joined Wheelock College after starting her career as a preschool and kindergarten teacher. She stayed on following the school's 2018 merger with BU. In her days as an early childhood educator, she realized that she loved the social-emotional learning of children. That spurred her to pursue a degree in school counseling and take a job as an advisor with Wheelock.

From preschoolers to undergrads, the cornerstone of her work has always been supporting students, Vassallo says. As the director of undergrad student services, she makes herself available to students for "all things. It truly runs the gamut: I'll have students come to me in a career crisis, or to ask about dual degrees or internships, but then I'll have students come in just to say, 'Okay, here's an update on my breakup,'" she says and laughs.

No matter the situation-academic or not-Vassallo says, the key is always making sure students feel seen and heard.

"Being a college student is really difficult," she says. "You have these four years to explore and to allow yourself to take on a little more risk [than you have before]." As an advisor, the question Vassallo continuously asks herself is, "How do we make sure that students feel comfortable making some of these big decisions for themselves, while still feeling like they have a safety net if something isn't working?"

Shohet, the 2024 faculty advisor winner, splits her time among teaching, advising, and administrative duties. It's a busy schedule, she acknowledges, but one that allows her plenty of time for what she enjoys best: talking to students.

"I love that BU students have a lot of initiative and curiosity," says Shohet, whose anthropological research ranges from studying underprivileged dialysis patients to how Israeli kibbutzim manage aging and end-of-life care. "And I love when students start forming their own questions they want to answer. One of my favorite parts of the job is advising students on how to start their own research to answer these really interesting questions of all kinds."

More than anything, Shohet says, she takes pride in seeing students succeed.

That doesn't just mean acceptance letters or awards. "To me, success means being fulfilled," she says. "It is always really nice to see students challenge themselves or expand their horizons and figure out what's meaningful to them."

Shohet and Vassallo will be honored at the 11th annual Academic Advising Symposium on Friday, March 1. Find more details here.

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  • Alene Bouranova

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    Alene Bouranova is a Pacific Northwest native and a BU alum (COM'16). After earning a BS in journalism, she spent four years at Boston magazine writing, copyediting, and managing production for all publications. These days, she covers campus happenings, current events, and more for BU Today. Fun fact: she's still using her Terrier card from 2013. When she's not writing about campus, she's trying to lose her Terrier card so BU will give her a new one. She lives in Cambridge with her plants. Profile

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