College of Agriculture counselor named LSU Advisor of the Year

(04/13/22) BATON ROUGE, La. Jennie Sparks, academic counselor for the LSU College of Agriculture, has been honored with the LSU Advisor of the Year Award.

The LSU Advisor of the Year Award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising on campus.

Sparks was nominated by College of Agriculture Assistant Dean Allie Prest and acknowledged as Advisor of the Year by the University College Center for Freshman Year (UCFY) at a luncheon on March 25.

“Over the past two years, all advisors have faced challenges in delivering quality service to students during times of uncertainty. Mrs. Sparks’ service never faltered,” said Prest. “She has gone above and beyond to continue to meet students where they are, be it virtually or in the Residential College, where she now does weekly advising hours.”

During fall 2021, Sparks launched the “Wheres Jennie” advising program to connect with first-year students in the Ag Residential College.

“She would not hesitate to have lunch with a student in need,” Prest continued. “She shows the students she cares.”

Sparks serves as the lead academic counselor for the Office of Student Services in the College of Agriculture, which provides academic advising for approximately 1,500 students.

She handles most academic advising appointments and programming for the college. During the 2021 academic year, she met with 738 distinct students, representing nearly half of the college’s student population.

Prest acknowledges that when advising students there is a delicate balance of providing information, supporting students’ right to make their own decisions and helping them understand the ramifications of those decisions.

“It must be done with compassion and grace. Jennie exemplifies this,” said Prest.

Sparks is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). She is a member of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and Louisiana College Counselors Association (LCCA).

Early on in her career, Sparks worked at a military counseling center. Her time there heavily influenced her decision to pursue the counseling profession, and she still has a special interest in supporting transfer and military students.

Sparks began her career at LSU in 2017, working as an academic counselor for UCFY before moving to the College of Agriculture in 2019.

Her previous experience in counseling has impacted her approach to advising and building a rapport with College of Agriculture students.

On her desk, she has a small, framed picture of the letters “#ITM” given to Sparks by her former supervisor at UCFY, Andrea Jones. The picture serves as a reminder for Sparks to always ask, “Is there more?”

“I’ve had this picture on my desk since Andrea gave it to me, and it has really changed the way I view how I do my job,” said Sparks. “Every time I have a student schedule a meeting, I ask myself, ‘is there anything more that I can do for them?’”

Sparks said that even if a student is just coming in to drop a class, and they may only need her to help them with that one thing, she can always ask them how their other classes are going or if they are having a good semester.

“So many times, students open up about other things happening in their life that I wouldn’t have known about if I didn’t ask those small questions. Because of that I am able to help them get other resources and I know I have made a bigger impact than just doing that one task.”

The Advisor of the Year award is based on the national criteria of the NACADA and only one nominee is selected from LSU each year.

Sparks will be nominated to NACADA as LSU’s representative for National Advisor of the Year award.

“I enjoy what I do, and I enjoy seeing the changes in students,” said Sparks.

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LSU University College presented the LSU Advisor of the Year Award to Jennie Sparks, academic counselor for the LSU College of Agriculture, at a luncheon on March 25. Photo by LSU University College

4/13/2022 8:24:47 PM
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