OSWEGO - Lindsay McCluskey of communication studies and Casey Raymond of chemistry are the 2021 recipients of the SUNY Oswego President’s Award for Excellence in Academic Advising.

The criteria noted that the award honors “wise and trusted counselors who aid students in the formation and development of their academic and life goals.”

McCluskey’s nominator Stephanie Herbert said McCluskey’s support helps secure the success she and many others enjoy. Herbert earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations from Oswego in 2018 and has returned for her master’s in strategic communication while working as director of marketing for Syracuse’s Museum of Science and Technology.

“I cannot imagine my undergrad without her support, and I know many others feel similarly,” Herbert wrote. “She is constantly available, day and night, sends job openings to students, offers clubs and organizations as a way to increase interest in the program, and she does it with assertiveness and kindness.”

Herbert praised McCluskey as “incredibly intelligent” while always having “the student’s passion in mind, as well as following the mission of SUNY Oswego at its core.”

“Students heard around the department how excellent Dr. McCluskey is at reassuring students, and making sure they’re on the right track, that everyone wanted the chance to sit down with her to secure their future,” Herbert wrote. “Dr. McCluskey has offered relentlessly accurate, kind and helpful information to all students that walk through her door (both in-person, and virtually), and works to find the best solution possible.”

“She consistently demonstrates a commitment to students, mentoring them in achieving their academic and career goals, and fostering an environment committed to student success,” wrote Jessica Reeher, chair of communication studies. “She is routinely recognized as an excellent mentor and advocate for students. Her reputation as an active and involved adviser has resulted in her becoming the single most asked for adviser in our department.”

Students say they love McCluskey because “(s)he is sympathetic, understanding, helpful and takes her time with each student until they feel comfortable,” Reeher said. “She is fully engaged in the undergraduate advisement experience and takes her time with each student.”

In addition to formally advising 140-145 students for the 2020-21 academic year, McCluskey routinely informally advises additional students in her role as advisement coordinator for the communication studies department. Reeher noted that McCluskey goes above and beyond in this role for the large faculty and student cohorts.

“She provides support for our own faculty as much as she has for our students,” giving one-on-one sessions to help other faculty members, Reeher said.

Reeher credited McCluskey for taking “the time to get to know her students, their interests, their career goals and their strengths. … They value both her professional experiences and her academic knowledge, as well as her commitment to their success.”

McCluskey also assumes a mentorship role for many students through determining interest, connecting them with internships and career planning. “Students often reach out to Dr. McCluskey with words of thanks after acquiring a position in a new company or after being accepted to graduate school,” Reeher wrote.

McCluskey said her favorite movie is “Mary Poppins,” which provided one of her most important lessons: “For every job that must be done, there is an element of fun…a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

“I always try to maintain a fair, firm and friendly disposition inside and outside of the classroom,” McCluskey explained. “Though this can sometimes be a difficult balance to strike, I believe it is an important one for the student-educator/adviser relationship and for maintaining effective communication.”

This dedication to communication and accessibility are key parts of success.

“I approach teaching and advising by creating an open, relaxed and mutually respectful environment and by making myself accessible to students as often and in as many ways as possible for feedback and consultation,” McCluskey said. “I see advising as a way to help students make informed decisions for themselves and their futures.”

Ongoing commitment

Christian DiBiase, a May 2021 biology graduate who earned a Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, praised Raymond’s readiness as director of the college’s Honors Program.

“Dr. Raymond has continuously made himself available to myself and my peers of the Honors Program throughout my time in undergrad,” DiBiase wrote in his nomination letter. “He has gone above and beyond in leading me through what has often been a challenging though enlightening curriculum.”

DiBiase noted that Raymond provides advice that supports scholarly activities and career guidance, leading to opportunities he and others might not have thought possible.

“Dr. Raymond has been constantly available with insightful and constructive advice to help me navigate the arduous, though rewarding, task of completing an honors thesis,” DiBiase wrote. “This experience alone, with the help of his trusted advisement, has led me to acquire an external grant and perform a self-designed research study in a discipline outside my major. Overall, Dr. Raymond is an advisor whom the Honors Program has its foundations in, and whom the honors students can always count on.”

In 2020-21, Raymond advised 148 students total, most of them in his role leading the Honors Program as well as in the chemistry, biochemistry and geochemistry programs.

Fehmi Damkaci, chair of chemistry, praised Raymond’s versatility in advising such a broad range of students, including as a faculty mentor to the women’s hockey team.

“Dr. Raymond’s extensive network within the college and knowledge of different programs made him a very good advisor for students,” Damkaci wrote. “In addition, he has a very unique background which helped him to be a better advisor for our students. He has developed close relationships with students which usually results in advising even beyond Oswego.”

“I believe that advising is something that happens all of the time and has little to do with the once a semester meeting to discuss a schedule for the upcoming semester,” Raymond said, noting he works inside and outside classrooms to “take every opportunity to direct students to the tools and resources that are available to help them make their own decisions.”

Damkaci’s observations amplify the ongoing nature of Raymond’s connections with students and drive to help them succeed.

“He developed several outside of classroom experiences for students which increased their engagement with him as an advisor,” Damkaci said. “He does not hesitate talking with students in length. He is also one of the chemistry faculty who have advised Chemistry Club and helped students organize several important activities on campus and gain leadership/organizational skills.”

“I view my role as helping students best achieve their goals; however, many times students are not able to state their actual goals,” Raymond noted. “I have an open door policy to my office, including lounge areas outside of my office door, for students to study, relax, eat and sometimes just chat amongst themselves or with me.”

When meeting with an advisee for the first time, Raymond finds it important to ask both what they want to do and what they like doing.

“I believe in the philosophy that the correct job is the one where you enjoy the work,” Raymond explained. “Sometimes it takes a little coaxing to get students to talk about what they like doing, but it definitely gives some insight into their thoughts.”

In the past, Raymond has spearheaded taking 10 students to present their research at national American Chemical Society meetings, which saw between 14,000 and 17,000 others attending.

“I have had these students present their results in the sessions with graduate students, post-docs and faculty, not in undergraduate-exclusive sessions,” Raymond noted.

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