The advising manager for MTSU’s College of Education is proving that the university’s massive 2014 investment in advising is paying off.
Women in Higher Education in Tennessee has bestowed its Woman of Achievement Award on Alicia Abney, the second consecutive MTSU employee to receive this recognition. Judith Iriarte-Gross, an MTSU chemistry professor, won the honor in 2020.
“Because of the many great women in the organization, I still do not feel deserving of the award,” Abney said. “These women, my peers, have done incredible, admirable work in their great careers.”
The group’s website, https://www.whettn.org, describes a woman of achievement as “a dedicated leader who has earned admiration and respect; has a clear vision that inspires others; mentors and serves as a role model for other women; faces challenges with grace and courage; (and) lives with dignity, integrity and honor.”
A former secondary school teacher from Kokomo, Indiana, Abney and her family moved to Middle Tennessee in 2014. Her MTSU career began as a tutor for redshirt freshman football players. When an academic adviser position opened in the College of Education in 2015, she applied and got the job.
Now that she is the college’s advising manager, Abney sees her role as multifaceted and always subject to adjustments. In addition to helping students navigate the academic bureaucracy and determine which courses they should take, Abney often finds the conversation turning to other issues.
“In fact, many of our students know what they need to take next semester, but they really just need a safe place to talk through a situation and share any concerns they have about the future,” Abney said.
In her letter to WHET nominating Abney for the award, MTSU academic adviser Bryanna Licciardi wrote, “Working alongside Alicia for the past six years, I have had the pleasure of benefiting from Alicia’s leadership, drive, intrinsic support and determination to make everyone around her feel loved and supported. Within a year in her manager position, she has worked hard to improve our departmental communication, training and campus presence.”
Among the campus committees and organizations with which Abney works are the Adviser Mastery Program, the Summer Read Committee, Campus Read, the Power of One Coordinated Community Response, and Quest for Student Success 2025.
“As higher education professionals, we need to be deliberate in our communication with students in order to build a trusting, collaborative relationship so that they know and truly believe that we are here to support them and do our part to help them succeed,” said Abney, who was named this year’s Woman of Achievement via videoconference at WHET’s annual conference in mid-October.
Abney earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University in 2007, her master’s degree in student development counseling and administration from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2015 and her specialist in education degree in higher education administration and supervision from MTSU in 2019. She is on track to graduate from East Tennessee State University with a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy analysis in spring 2022.
–Gina K. Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)