Auburn advisor receives national award for excellence in advising

Published: October 26, 2021

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At its annual meeting held earlier this month, the National Academic Advising Association, or NACADA, recognized Ruthie Spiers, director of university advising in the Office of Academic Effectiveness, for her outstanding accomplishments as an administrator and leader at Auburn University.

Selected each year, NACADA's Outstanding Academic Advising Administrator Award acknowledges university leaders who demonstrate excellence in leading and directing academic advising programs and whose impact on academic advising significantly enhances the campus community.

A familiar face in Auburn's student success initiatives for almost 20 years, Spiers began her career in higher education as a residence hall director in 2002. Since then, she has worked alongside countless units to advance university programs and strategies, including leadership positions in Housing and Residence Life, First Year Experience, the Academic Counseling and Advising Center, and the Exploratory Advising Center. Spiers currently serves as the director of university advising, a role that enables her to work with more than 150 advising professionals from across campus to strengthen academic and professional advising programs for all Auburn students.

"In her time as director of university advising, Ruthie has been the driving force behind Auburn's leadership in academic advising," said Norman Godwin, associate provost for academic effectiveness. "Her ability to assess the collective strengths and weaknesses of our institution's advising approaches continues to yield programs that are mutually beneficial to both advisors and students."

A staunch advocate for innovative strategies to support student success, Speirs' most recent efforts include helping expand the university's access and affordability initiatives for prospective and incoming Auburn students. Programs such as Auburn First and Summer Start have enabled the university to expand its dual enrollment capacity while also ensuring students have access to crucial academic and advising resources.

Spiers’ commitment to advancing advising has included championing student-favored technological improvements such as an online change of major survey and developing robust training programs for new advisors. A regular advocate for professional advisors, Spiers continually works with the advising community to review academic policies and procedures to identify greater efficiencies and synergies across campus.

"I think it's my responsibility to not only leverage the strengths of the advising community but to also proactively remove barriers where I can preserve others' time and energy that can instead be invested in their students," explained Spiers. "I am honored to be awarded.”

Most recently, Spiers' leadership helped to navigate one of the most challenging times in Auburn's history. Her efforts to maintain open communication between advisors and the administration and facilitate consistent advising resources and support enabled the university to successfully transition to remote instruction at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic carried into summer 2020 and affected Camp War Eagle, Spiers led the development of a Canvas course for the all-remote Camp War Eagle. Spiers worked with each college to ensure they had the opportunity to display information distinct to the college while also maintaining consistency across the platform. The initiative was overwhelmingly successful and allowed the university to consider implementing new approaches to advising.

Spiers holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Presbyterian College and a master’s degree in counseling and doctoral degree in higher education administration from Auburn.

Spiers was recognized alongside two additional Auburn colleagues, Carolyn FitzGerald from the College of Liberal Arts and Stephanie Wood from the School of Nursing.

Submitted by: Marisa Singh

Ruthie Spiers