Presidential Award of Excellence
Andrew G. Colby
University Advising and Career Center
“one of the most powerful humanizing forces on campus.”
A gifted adviser, Colby is also appreciated as an effective innovator. As the UACC's associate director, he re-organized the Liberal Arts advising for June orientation, making what can seem like an overwhelming day a more comfortable experience for incoming students. And he overhauled the center's advising process into what is today considered a model method.
The numbers are impressive. Every year, some 1,700 UNH students begin the fall semester with an undeclared major. They pour into Hood House, ready to dig in and explore their scholarly options. Andy Colby works one-on-one with hundreds of these students, helping them discover their academic and career paths. He and his staff make a whopping 32,000 course recommendations annually. And, during Colby's eight years with the University Advising and Career Center, he has helped nearly 2,000 students create their own academic plans.
But the numbers don't do justice to the knack - the intangible, medicine-man-like affinity he has for helping students chart their course. One faculty member describes it as "astonishing and humbling" and recalls a June orientation encounter between Colby and a visibly anxious first-year student: "In about four minutes, he elicited key information from her and set her on the road to choosing a schedule that suited her needs."
Colby's careful listening, combined with his encyclopedic knowledge of UNH and its academic programs, are two of the keys to his popularity. But the knack derives from something less obvious.
Colby says much of his work involves recasting students' assumptions about what college is supposed to be. "They come in with a lot of expectations," he says. "Many of them feel things have to go a certain way. In truth, all they really have to do here is learn."
This might be the secret of Colby's gift: an ability to help students essentially get out of their own way and let their paths unfold in front of them. He does this by helping them listen to their own hearts and minds.
Former advisee Ryan Walls, a self-described very undeclared freshman, says of Colby, "He gave me straightforward, honest advice and, more than anything, kept bringing me back to my original interests and goals.
"I'm confident that many other undeclared students have had similar experiences with Andy."
He's right. Some students are so satisfied with their advising experience that, when the time comes, they are reluctant to declare a major because they enjoy working with him so much.
This brings new meaning to student retention and is one of the reasons Colby is known as "one of the most powerful humanizing forces on campus."
He would probably shy away from that description, but the fact remains, his work impacts hundreds of students each year. Today, they are journalists, EMTs, museum associates, and teachers. Their postcards and letters come to Colby from all corners of the world.
As one nominator so aptly states, "If we could just figure out how to clone him."
Cloning might be a ways off, but lucky for everyone, Colby trains the UACC staff in academic advising, passing on his wisdom and talent to tomorrow's advisers.