By: Patsy Weiler
Dedication is a key word to describe Amie Donahue’s work at MTSU.
The undergraduate academic advisor has worked in the Jones College of Business for a decade. Not only does she help students make class selections, Donahue assists with advising regarding career choices, change of major, academic probation and more.
Donahue is dedicated “to meeting students where they are,” she said. “Let students know you care and they are individuals.” Sending her advisees birthday greetings and congratulating them on strong mid-term grades are just part of the personalized way she engages them.
The advisor reaped the results of her personal dedication when more than a few of those she helped guide along the way sent her graduation pictures.
Donahue has had a front-row seat to witness how dedicated her students have been as they, too, navigated the upheaval the COVID-19 pandemic brought to their academic plans in 2020. An advising appointment conducted on Zoom with a young woman sitting in her car is a perfect illustration.
“Toward the end of the appointment, I asked about her car. She told me it broke down and was (sitting in it) waiting on assistance,” said Donahue. “I was amazed she kept the appointment — it showed me dedication to her goals.”
When COVID-19 impacted the campus during March 2020, it was during one of the university’s prime advising seasons. The timing couldn’t have been worse as Donahue’s appointment calendar was nearly blocked solid for weeks through the end of priority registration.
“Thankfully, we have a very supportive college and that helped with our transition to working from home,” she said.
Before the virus’s arrival, Donahue was already a strong proponent of utilizing technology as an important means of connecting to students. She manages the College of Business’s three social media accounts, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — the latter with nearly 700 followers — and quickly utilized them to keep communication flowing.
“I use our social media accounts to post information and highlights about appointments, Zoom tips, class types and more. It is now more important than ever to make ourselves visible and accessible,” Donahue said.
How to roll out the new student orientation, or CUSTOMS, in the middle of a pandemic was one of the biggest tasks Donahue and other advisors faced, but the dedicated group more than met the challenge.
Instead of meeting with students in-person and being with them in the registration labs, the process went to a virtual experience that had to be melded together quickly, while keeping the focus on the needs of incoming Blue Raiders.
“I created a webpage on our advising site to guide our new students through this process and texted and called each of my new advisees individually before our group orientation meetings,” she said. “I wanted to create an environment where new students were still able to meet other students in real time.”
Additionally, the busy advisor and her colleagues recorded the CUSTOMS orientation presentations so they could be offered virtually to freshmen and transfer students.
Another item Donahue has utilized more for younger students and upper classmen is DegreeWorks, a web-based program that provides information to easily track academic goals. She was using the software previously, but it is now her primary advising tool.
“During our remote appointments, I am teaching newer students how to use DegreeWorks to make the best decisions as they progress toward their degree. The tool helps upperclassmen keep track of their graduation goals,” she said. “It is always accessible in their PipelineMT accounts, so it is something that can’t be lost like a slip of paper or an academic map.”
Donahue thinks her students’ attitudes mainly have been positive. “They want to succeed. There was a definite adjustment in the spring, but things evened out this fall,” she said. “I encourage students to stay motivated by talking them through issues and possible solutions and am dedicated to helping them to recognize they have had past success and can do it again.”
— Patsy Weiler (Patsy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)