- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you're involved in the Animal Biology (ABI) major, an undergraduate program at the University of California, Davis--it's part of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology--you know who's making a difference:
- Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey, master advisor of ABI and an assistant adjunct professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and
- Staff member Elvira Galvan Hack, who serves as the academic advisor for the ABI students
And now for the news flash: Kimsey has just won a top international award from NACADA, the “global community for academic advising.” He is the winner of NACADA's Outstanding Advising Award, Faculty Academic Advising.
Hack received a certificate of merit in the highly competitive global category, Outstanding Advising Award, Primary Advising Role.
Both Kimsey and Hack shared the 2019 Eleanor and Harry Walker Advising Awards from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, for top faculty advisor and top staff advisor, respectively. The awards honor excellence and innovation in academic advising.
Highly honored by their peers and students, Kimsey and Hack earlier received awards in the NACADA Region 9 Excellence in Advising Awards. Kimsey this year won the UC Davis Outstanding Faculty Advising Award, and the Distinction in Student Mentoring Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. Hack was honored at the 2019 Staff Assembly's Citation for Excellence Program, receiving an honorable mention and a cash award in the Individual Service Award category.
Established in 1983, the NACADA Global Awards Program for Academic Advising honors individuals and institutions making "significant impacts on academic advising." The organization, comprised of 13,000 members, “provides a network and professional identity for the thousands of faculty, full-time advisors, and administrators whose responsibilities include academic advising,” a spokesperson said. NACADA' s vision is to recognize that "effective academic advising is at the core of student success." Its mission: "to promote student success by advancing the field of academic advising globally."
Kimsey, master advisor for the ABI major since 2010 and an ABI lecturer since 2001, “excels at teaching, advising and mentoring,” wrote nominator Steve Nadler, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. “He sincerely cares about each student, and incredibly, remembers their conversations and their interests.”
Kimsey, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Davis, wrote in part about his philosophy of advising: "In a broad sense, advising at the undergraduate level requires a good and objective listener, broad experience in life, a source of diverse perspectives to tackle any potential problem, an ability to put oneself in the other person's place, and really caring about and enjoying other people."
Kimsey's teaching philosophy: "I think that humans learn best together, where one person demonstrates the process or disseminates the knowledge to solve a problem to another person, and then together they solve the problem. The problem may be proximal and practical or abstract and conceptual. Following instruction, the teacher may participate with groups of students to solve problems, and there exist many other variations on teaching that adhere to this simple theme. But the principal components remain the same: demonstration or dissemination of knowledge followed by cooperative application. This is likely the most ancient of teaching concepts, and to the extent recent innovations in teaching method return to this simple process and replace simple lecturing, it continues to be the most effective."
Known for expertly guiding students toward career paths, and helping them meet challenges and overcome obstacles, Kimsey draws such unsolicited accolades on Rate My Professors as:
- “Dr. Kimsey is by far one of the best professors at UC Davis. His class never fails to entertain! You do need to put in the work to do well but it is very worth it! Dr. Kimsey truly cares about his students and wants to see them succeed and find a path that best suits them. Strongly recommend!”
- "This was the best class I've taken at UC Davis. You can tell that Dr. Kimsey really cares, and puts a lot of effort into his class.”
Elvira Galvan Hack
Hack, a UC Davis employee since 2011, has served in her position as student academic advisor for undergraduates in the Animal Biology program for 12 years. She is passionate about helping her students succeed professionally, socially and developmentally.
The students seek such careers as physicians, veterinarians, wildlife scientists or researchers. They are diverse: they range from first-generation college students to undocumented immigrants, and they span all socioeconomic levels.
"Elvira is likely the best academic advisor ever,” Kimsey wrote in the application. “Not only is she completely conversant with all the rules and regulations of the major, but understands the latitude of flexibility built into their application in a very human way. She is connected with all the administrative functionaries necessary to efficiently accomplish any task in a timely manner. For the confused or troubled student, she is the first and last resort for the solution of problems not only of an academic or administrative kind but those of a deeply personal nature as well. She keeps them on track, outlining their options, helping them decide on their future professions, and the direction their life should take. She has been invaluable to me as the master advisor. She really does care about a student's fate. Moreover we have had great fun doing these tasks together.”
Elvira, born in Arizona and raised in Dixon, Calif., was the seventh of eight children born to farmworkers. Her parents successfully ensured that their children grew up happy and healthy and in a loving home filled with family traditions.
Hack credits a UC Davis professor's assistance in helping her attend business school (he loaned her funds to purchase an electric typewriter) that led to her vow "to pay it forward" and "to make a difference."
Hack's philosophy of advising:"My overall philosophy is that students should feel welcome, respected and treasured. I ensure that my advising office is a warm, friendly, and an inviting place, an all-inclusive place where students can feel both comfortable and safe. They can trust me: they can trust me to listen, they can trust me to be heard, and they can trust me that they will be understood, supported and valued. I maintain an open door policy. I am here to provide them with advice, assistance and tools at a time when they need it the most. If they are experiencing a problem, I make time for them immediately, no matter the hour. I assure them that it is better for them to seek assistance now, than for them to head home and worry about it for hours or days. I emphasize how important self-care is because, frankly, they can be so hard on themselves. In the classroom, they may struggle with the instructor, content, assignments, grades and peers, but in my office, it's a positive experience. I assure them that they belong here, that they are appreciated, and that they are celebrated like family. My students know that I care. For example, I know that many students develop food insecurities due to monetary or time restraints. Thus, I stock a table with healthy snacks and encourage them to “drop in and grab a quick snack” in between classes or when they are working on research projects in their lab."
Students highly praise her work, dedication and kindness. “During my first quarter as a transfer student, I went through some extreme life changes and emotional roller coasters,” one student said. “I would end up in her office crying my eyes out and in distraught, but she always calmed me down and helped me reach out for other help to get me through my rough patch.”
Another student described Elvira “as by far the most helpful, kind and encouraging adviser I have met at UC Davis. Being a first-generation college student, I require extra help in understanding and executing graduation requirements and other criteria for my future career goals.”