Fashion merchandising professor Eizabeth Hopfer works with a student in apparel construction class recently. “Being an advisor is like being a tour guide” for fashion mercnandising, she said.

Elizabeth Hopfer, Ph.D., an associate professor of fashion merchandising, has won the university’s 2020 Faculty Advising Excellence Award.

“I am very honored to receive this award, and honestly, it’s an equal honor to read some of the letters of support written by my current and former students,” Hopfer said.

Hopfer was one of two advising excellence nominees from the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Kishaa James, student support specialist for the CAES, was nominated in the professional advising category.

Hopfer, who typically advises 40-50 students each semester, said that advising students is almost like being a tour guide, guiding them toward a degree in fashion – or, in some cases, letting them know when it’s the right time to take a detour or change paths altogether, Hopfer said.

“My effectiveness as a tour guide is dependent on two things:  I must be familiar with the tour I’m giving; and I must get to know the people I’m guiding through the tour. It is only by building a relationship with students that I can give them the information they need,” she said.

Although advising is currently a challenge due to student stress levels and differences in the learning environment due to COVID-19, there is also a benefit in faculty’s increased online presence, she said.

“I actually think that advisors are more accessible than ever – and that we just have to try to find ways to engage and personalize attention with our students. I also think this pandemic will require faculty, as a whole, to recognize student problems early so that we can intervene before someone is ‘lost,’” she said.