Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Member Spotlight: Calina Coakwell

James W. Vick Texas Excellence Award for Academic Advising Recipient
Hometown:  Belton, TX
College(s) Attended:  University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (first year)/ UT Austin – B.A. in Psychology received May 1997/ Texas State University – M.A. in Professional Counseling received December 2000
Degree(s) earned:  B.A. Psychology/ M.A. Professional Counseling
What are your hobbies?  I read incessantly (fiction and horror mostly), running and walking when time permits.
What was your favorite childhood toy?  When I was very young I had a plastic riding horse with wheels I named “Oscar.”  Later on, Barbie dolls.  I also loved to play with a multitude of animals.
What is your current position at UT? Briefly explain:  I have been the undergraduate advisor in the Department of Geography & the Environment for 10 years.  I also advise Urban Studies majors in addition to Geography majors.
Have you had any jobs prior to your current job at UT?  If so, what were they?  I interned as a career counselor for a year at Texas State University.  I interned for a semester at Casa Esperanza in Kyle, Texas, doing marriage and family therapy, mostly working with children and their parents.  I taught emotionally disturbed children for a year in Manor, TX.  I worked as an after school counselor for the YMCA.  I worked at the GAP Outlet for a holiday season.  I worked at the Dell Factory Outlet for a few years.  I worked as a bank teller for a few years.  I worked at Mr. Gatti’s for 3 years.  I was a swim instructor and lifeguard for many summers.  I worked at a few day cares growing up too.  Too many “jobs,” but this is my first professional career.
What is the most challenging aspect of your current job?  Balancing advising students with other administrative tasks, and also having too few classes and seats available for students (especially with budget cuts).
Tell us about one of your success stories that happened in your current position (regarding a student, a co-worker, a project, etc.).:  There are so many over the years.  The most recent one was a very poignant one from last semester.  A student came to my office in tears with a difficult non-academic issue.  She said she couldn’t get in to see a counselor in the CMHC for an appointment for a while.  She didn’t feel comfortable calling the hotline either.  I’ll let her tell the story anonymously.  This is an excerpt from her Vick nomination:
“When the health and mental service center was booked and I couldn't get in sooner than 2.5 weeks, I had an urgent problem that I wasn't comfortable calling the hotline about. Calina opened her door and listened to me and gave advice on how I could manage the next few weeks until my appointment. She went above and beyond by checking in with me, and just making sure that I was keeping up with course work. She wanted to make sure that I had options available late in the semester like, withdrawing or getting an incomplete. She also encouraged me as a person and lifted my spirits so that I had enough courage to talk to my professors about my performance. Thanks to her, I will not be failing this semester, which in turn will not delay my graduation date.”
What is your advising philosophy?  I am person-centered and empathic.  For every student contact, whether it be face-to-face, email, or telephone, I attempt to clear my mind and give him or her my full, undistracted, positive attention.  I keep humor as a tool, and empathy as a rule.  I try to understand the comprehensive situation and provide as much relevant information as I can to help students make their own educated decisions.  I provide resources and active referrals as needed.  I try to anticipate any additional developments or help that students may need and provide information and availability for the future.  I constantly communicate with my students:  in my office, through my email listserv, individual email, student groups, and in the hallways.  I keep my door open and encourage open, respectful communication.
Title:  Senior Academic Advisor -- College of Liberal Arts

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