UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Chris Sigler, assistant teaching professor and academic adviser in the Department of Food Science, recently received both the 2022 Excellence in Academic Advising Award and the 2021-2022 Community of Advising Excellence Award from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
Sponsored by the college’s alumni society, the Excellence in Academic Advising Award recognizes faculty members and staff for overall effectiveness in student advising, individual student goal setting and career planning, and personal counseling. Candidates are recommended by faculty, students, administrators and alumni.
The Community of Advising Excellence Award recognizes individuals who have shown qualities associated with outstanding academic advising for students in the college.
Sigler, assistant teaching professor, has been the academic adviser for the 150 students in the food science major since December 2017. In this time, he has transformed the advising system in the department, according to John Coupland, food science professor and undergraduate program coordinator, who nominated him for the Excellence in Academic Advising Award.
Sigler has succeeded admirably in professionalizing advising in food science, Coupland noted, adding that he has taken over individual advising relationships with each student and has systematized and professionalized the process.
“He provides individual plans and regular check-ins with each student and a more personal follow-up and guidance as needed,” Coupland said. “As well as responding to student needs, he has proactively developed ways to teach students to succeed in the system. For example, he developed a comprehensive advising guide on Canvas.”
In addition, Coupland pointed out, Sigler created and oversees a mentor program that pairs and assigns students a faculty mentor, a food science faculty member with disciplinary expertise and professional connections who can provide the introductions and guidance helpful for success in the work world.
“Dr. Sigler designed a student survey that allows students to identify their individual interests and goals and uses this to effectively pair them with the right mentor,” Coupland said. “The new advising model provides the professional mentoring guidance combined with Chris’ meticulous advising around curricular issues.”
Overseeing recruitment efforts, advising student clubs and co-teaching the food science-focused section of the first-year seminar, Food Science 150 — where he teaches student-success and college-acclimation strategies — Sigler is also instructor for four other courses in food science. They include Food Science 297, Careers in Food Science; Food Science 402, Supervised Experience in Food Science Teaching; Food Science 495, Internship and Co-Op Experience; and Food Science 602, Supervised Experience in College Teaching (graduate). All of these courses aim to assist students in the food science department academically, socially and professionally.
Students have noticed and appreciate his focus on career-oriented advising.
When Madalyn Arthur, a just-graduated senior majoring in food science, met Sigler in 2018, she found him always to be diligent, organized, interested and passionate about every one of his students.
“He goes above and beyond, creating tailored recommended academic plans for students and personalized Canvas pages with links and instructions on all major advising topics,” she said. “And he organizes outreach events to help students build resumes, garner interview skills, and find internship and research opportunities.”
Sigler advises both the student Fermentation Club as well as co-advises the student Food Science Club, and his guidance and input into the Food Science Club’s direction has been invaluable, according to Leah Bodinger, a member of the group’s executive board for the past three years and its current president. “He helps to brainstorm ideas for events that the club can sponsor while attempting to make even our most ambitious ideas possible financially and logistically,” she said.
Tyler Chandross-Cohen, a former undergraduate food science student and now graduate student pursuing a doctoral degree at Penn State, believes Sigler is an awesome recruiter. Chandross-Cohen worked alongside Sigler as a member of the Food Science Advocates, a group Sigler created to assist in recruitment efforts and help prospective students connect on a meaningful level with those already pursuing a degree in their interested field.
“In addition to being an amazing teacher, Dr. Sigler is an outstanding academic adviser who creates personal relationships with all of his students while still being professional and precise with his methods,” he said. “His work in our department goes further than answering emails and helping with scheduling. Dr. Sigler works year-round, looking for opportunities for his students outside the classroom. For example, he helped me put together an outstanding internship.”
Grace Lewis, now an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, met Sigler as an undergraduate student at Penn State. His advice helped shape her career.
“I have never met anybody more passionate about supporting students, more enthusiastic about welcoming new students, or more knowledgeable about academic options for students than Dr. Sigler,” she said. “Dr. Sigler is not only incredibly supportive and knowledgeable about advising students, but his dedication and excitement for the Department of Food Science are unmatched.”
Robert Roberts, professor and head of food science, summed up the value of Sigler’s advising activities to his department this way: “Dr. Sigler has done exactly what we hoped he would do when we decided to change our undergraduate academic advising model,” Roberts said. “He provides accurate and tailored information in a timely manner, is incredibly student-focused, and works hard to assure the success of all the students in the major. He is an excellent academic adviser and colleague, and there is no doubt he deserves these awards.”
–Jeff Mulhollem, Penn State University