“Student success is enhanced when they have access to advising, information and resources,” said Jessica Simmons, EdD, assistant dean of student affairs at the UCF College of Nursing who has spent more than a decade at the university improving access for prospective and current students.
Simmons recently received a 2018 Outstanding Advising Award Winner in the Academic Advising—Primary Role category from NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. She is one of 12 advisors nationwide who were honored during the NACADA Annual Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., on Oct. 3, 2018.
The international award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding advising of students and who are leaders in the field. Honorees exemplify the NACADA Core Values of professional practice, including proactively creating advising interactions with students, utilizing campus networks and setting the highest standards for their advising practice.
Nursing is one of the top five majors at UCF, and there’s increasing national demand for nurses with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Simmons and her team currently advise and assist approximately 1,000 Nursing Pending majors, 1,500 Nursing majors and countless non-UCF students who are interested in the programs.
To improve access for students, Simmons has improved the user experience and content on websites, streamlined the application process for transfer nursing students, created a convenient and accessible online appointment scheduling system, and developed an application status dashboard for nursing applicants.
Her efforts have paid off. At the College of Nursing, first-year retention rates among freshmen undergraduate nursing students has increased. Additionally, the student satisfaction rate with academic advising at the College of Nursing exceeds the university-wide average.
“Since her first week at the College of Nursing, Jessica has demonstrated an energetic influence and positive impact in undergraduate services,” said Maureen Covelli, PhD, RN, associate dean for undergraduate affairs at the college. “Her dedication to students, the college and UCF in regards to access to advisement, information and resources to promote student learning and success is an exemplar of excellence.”
Simmons is also a leader in the UCF academic advising community, currently serving as chair of the UCF Academic Advising Council and leading the monthly programming for nearly 200 advisors and supporting staff.
Simmons recently was promoted to assistant dean of student affairs in the College of Nursing, where she will oversee all aspects of student affairs including recruitment, admissions, advising, enrollment and student organizations. She has worked at UCF for more than 14 years in admissions and advising capacities, most recently serving as assistant director for undergraduate student services at the college. She is a two time UCF alumna, having earned a Master of Arts and Doctor of Education degrees in Educational Leadership.
She has been an active member of NACADA since 2007, presenting at state, regional and national conferences. In 2010, she was honored with the NACADA Outstanding New Advisor Award.
“In each of her roles as advisor, supervisor, committee chair, university advising advocate and NACADA member, I have never had a doubt that Jessica would fulfill her obligations at the highest standard of excellence because she is one of the most consistent and hard-working professionals at UCF,” said Rex Roberts, director of advising at The Burnett Honors College at UCF. “I cannot imagine anyone more qualified and deserving of this award.”
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