Exemplary Advising Award recipient Eddie Bobbitt aims to help students ‘find their why’
A&S Advisor Eddie received the Provost’s Award for Exemplary Advising. He came upon his career by accident.
By Alicia Kelso
Eddie Bobbitt has technically been a UofL employee since 2004, when he started his undergraduate career and held a job as a work study in Financial Aid. Throughout his undergraduate career, he also worked in Athletics and with the Disability Resource Center.
When he graduated, Bobbitt accepted a position in the College of Arts and Sciences as an academic advisor, a role he’s held for nine years. In the spring, he received the Provost’s Award for Exemplary Advising.
His department also recently won a ‘Best of Region’ award for academic advising at the Region 3 NACADA Conference.
When Bobbitt isn’t advising A&S students, he serves as co-executive director for Camp Quality Kentuckiana, an organization that provides a summer camping experience and year-round support programming for children with cancer. He took time out of his busy schedule to talk about his favorite parts of the job, how he accidentally came into this career, and how he helps students ‘find their why.’
Describe your work as an advisor.
Eddie Bobbitt: My role is to assist my students to degree obtainment. I fear that when some people here the role of ‘academic advisor,’ they think we just talk about academic requirements with our students. That is just a small part of our positions. We are counselors, mentors, educators and advocates. In my nine years, I’ve had to help students with everything from applying to law school to changing a tire.
How did you get into this role?
Eddie Bobbitt: I got started in this career by accident. In the spring of 2006, I was looking for a summer job to help pay the bills. I was walking through the Quad and saw a flyer posted seeking Peer Advisors in the College of Arts and Sciences. I was not an A&S student but decided to apply anyway because the position sounded fun and I really needed the money (what college student doesn’t). Thankfully I made the staff but had no idea my life would change that summer. My plan was to go into marketing after graduation. That was until I realized how much I enjoyed working with students.
How to you balance your workload to make sure your students are getting what they need?
Eddie Bobbitt: To be completely honest, it can be tough at times. You are constantly trying to find the balance to reach as many students as possible while not sacrificing the quality of advising they receive. I am a list person. I begin each day with an upbeat playlist, coffee (and sometimes Red Bull) and a few minutes to write out my goals and objectives for the day. This helps me stay focused on what I really need to get done for the day and limits distractions.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Eddie Bobbitt: This is going to sound incredibly corny but it’s the truth: My students are my favorite aspect of the job. They allow me to be a part of their story and I try not to ever take that for granted. I specifically enjoy going to Commencement because that is the payoff. At times, you can become a ‘fan’ of certain students because you know what they had to overcome in order to walk across that stage. It’s an awesome feeling to know that you had a small part of making it happen.
What would you consider the most challenging part of the job?
Eddie Bobbitt: The most challenging part of my job is to not become too machine-like when working with students during heavy advising periods. There are a variety of administrative tasks that we me must complete during each appointment. It’s easy to become robotic when you see 50 students in a week. To prevent this from happening, I try to take a moment in between each appointment to reset and relax. Every appointment is an opportunity to positively impact the life of a student. We have to keep that in mind because that is the reason advisors are in this field.
Why do you think you earned the Provost’s Award for Exemplary Advising?
Eddie Bobbitt: I thought they were kidding at first when they told me I was selected as the recipient. I still think the committee made a mistake and miscalculated the votes!
In all seriousness, winning the Provost Award was definitely a highlight in my career. I think what stood out was the support letter from my students. Perhaps it showed the committee how dedicated I am to student success. I was honored to receive the recognition but the letters from the students mean more to me than any award. They are the reason I do what I do and I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with them.
What do you think makes your department stand out in a way that earned you a ‘Best of Region’ award?
Eddie Bobbitt: Early last year my friend (and colleague) Bret Hirsch and I had idea to present at the Region 3 NACADA Conference. We titled our session, “Hashtags to High-fives.” The idea of the session was to give the conference attendees tangible, practical and cost effective ways to connect with students. We discussed everything from utilizing social media to how to incorporate remote control inflatable sharks into practice. On our way to the conference, we thought the attendees would either think it was a very engaging session or a dumpster fire. Thankfully it wasn’t the latter.
We won Best of Region and got the opportunity to present at the national conference in Atlanta. To our surprise, we had over 500 advisors attend our session. We are still getting emails of advisors using some of our methods at their institution. In regards to what makes our department stand out? I work with some incredibly talented people. If we stand out, it’s because of their individual hard work and creativity.
How do you spend your spare time?
Eddie Bobbitt: I like to stay busy. Currently, I’m finishing up a second master’s degree in school counseling. When I’m not on the Belknap campus, I serve as the Executive Director for Camp Quality, a local non-profit that serves local children dealing with cancer. I also volunteer for Exit 0 (homeless outreach based in Jeffersonville) and serve on the School Counseling Board at New Albany High School.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received that you maybe even impart upon your own students?
Eddie Bobbitt: One of my favorite authors and motivational speakers is Dr. Eric Thomas. He is a former academic advisor at Michigan State University and is now a professional motivational speaker. He speaks often about finding your ‘why.’ By doing so, you will be motivated to put more effort in what you do because you remember the greater purpose. I try to impart that on my students. It’s so much bigger than just graduating from college. It’s about being the first person to graduate from college in your family. It’s about achieving your life-long dream of becoming a doctor. It’s about getting the degree so you can go help at-risk youth. Whatever it is, finding your ‘why’ can be so powerful.