Robert Jacks, coordinator of advising for the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, has received the university’s 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Advising.

The Provost’s Award for Excellence in Advising is given annually to a Virginia Tech faculty or staff member who serves undergraduate advisees in exemplary ways. Awardees receive a $2,000 prize and are inducted into the university’s Academy of Advising Excellence.

After Jacks joined the department in 2014, his ability to enact positive change was quickly recognized, and he was appointed coordinator of advising in 2016. He has already implemented several initiatives to improve advising, such as developing procedure videos for faculty, instituting online office hours for students, and creating a peer-mentoring program that connects transfer students with upperclassmen.

Jacks co-instructs the Department of English’s First-Year Experience course, which develops foundational skill sets for first-year students. He also leads the department’s new student and transfer student orientation sessions each summer.

At the core of his advising philosophy, Jacks wrote, are, “listening, empowering students to develop a sense of purpose and integrity, and connecting and caring about each individual advisee while staying up-to-date on the latest trends and striving to create communities for students to connect with each other.”

Jacks makes a point to meet individually with every first-semester student in the department, a practice that has helped the department achieve its highest-ever retention rate of 94 percent. Jacks frequently attends conferences to refine his advising abilities and has been asked by top-tier universities to share his research on mentoring and advising.

In a letter of nomination, Jacks’ student Amelia Dirks wrote, “Rob Jacks is much more than an advisor: he is a friend, a soundboard, and a mentor.”