Outstanding First-Year Advocate



The Outstanding First-Year Advocate Award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the academic and/or personal lives of first-year students. The Outstanding First-Year Advocate Award Committee has named Shelly VandePanne as the recipient of 2014. Shelly is the Director of Student Academic Affairs for Ferris State University Seminar. 

The nomination letters that received for Shelly showed how much of an impact she has made on our campus:

“Early on, many faculty, program coordinators, and students resisted the mandate for a first year seminar, but Shelly’s patience and kindness overcame that initial hesitation as she taught her colleagues how the seminar could be used to good advantage in their respective units. Her enthusiasm for this work has been contagious with the result that there are now advocates in each of the six other colleges who were trained and mentored by Shelly. Her support for seminar instructors has been Hurculean and, as the repository for all available support resources, she makes their good work possible.”Shelly lives by the four basic elements in the FISH philosophy: have fun, be there, make their day, and choose your attitude. She truly cares for the students she encounters.

She says, “I quickly learn who my students are, and what makes them unique. I greet them by name in the hallways, in the classroom, and wherever I run into them. They are often surprised to know that I remember their names. I meet with each of my FSUS students and advisees within the first three weeks of the semester (in addition to advising appointments). When they come in, I ask them about some aspect of their life such as participation in high school sports, family, or hobbies. I ask them to tell me about their dreams and challenge them to set goals to achieve those dreams. They are often surprised but feel more relaxed when they know that I care enough to remember something about them. I track my students after they leave our programs for their chosen majors and I often send out cards and/or emails of congratulations on a job well done, or encouragement when they are having difficulty.”

We commend Shelly on an amazing job with her students, and we are proud to name her as the recipient of the 2014 First Year Advocate Award!


Former Recipients

2013 - Joanne Robertson
2012 - Not awarded
2011 - Kent Sun
2010 - Lori Armstrong
2009 - Susan McNamara
2008 - Paul Jackson
2007 - Sharon Bell
2006 - Richard Griffin