Rachel Piontak received the 2022 Collegiality Award from the Academic Advising Council. Piontak is an academic coach in the College of Engineering, where she has worked since Fall 2019. The Collegiality Award is presented to an adviser or adviser liaison who — formally or informally — has provided mentoring to other academic advisers and colleagues. They exemplify a commitment to promoting cooperation between colleagues and campus departments and are a part of building a bright future for academic advisers on campus.
Piontak was nominated as someone who uses strong interpersonal skills when she actively listens to students, collaborates with individuals across campus and supports multiple student organizations. She shares her knowledge of how to build a collaborate relationship between advisers and coaches across campus and to other universities. Piontak has presented at multiple NACADA conferences on topics like strengthening the relationship between advisers and coaches, group coaching and developing a coaching program.
In her own words about advising and working with students:
What do you like best about working with students?
One of my favorite aspects of working with students is continually expanding my understanding. On any given day, I may learn about cybersecurity, someone’s motivation for improving study habits or how a valuable relationship inspired a student to seek help.
What is something working with students has taught you about being a coach?
Working with students has taught me that coaching must be a dynamic co-constructed process and that I am most effective when I am fully present, curious and open. I have learned that the student is the expert of their lived experiences, and my role is not to fix or change them, but rather to create a space for them to bounce ideas around and explore resources to help accomplish their goals.
Any words of advice or helpful tips for other advisers and coaches on this campus?
Whether an adviser, coach or anything in between, remember to give yourself a chance to breathe — literally — between meetings. We serve our students better when we’re grounded, and taking a few deep breaths can help. Dream with your team! Whether it’s smoother processes or ideas to engage students, our program’s best ideas come from intentional time to brainstorm.