Developing professional identities for students, staff
Jill Harvey, director of first year advising at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, wins prestigious 2022 Chancellor’s Award for Staff
Jill Harvey, director of first year advising at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, views mentoring as part of her day to day job, but her devotion to her students and staff hasn’t gone unnoticed by the campus community.
Harvey was recently awarded Excellent Mentor as part of the 2022 Chancellor’s Awards for Staff, the highest honor for staff at Pitt, for her role.
“Saying that I’m stunned about the award is an understatement,” Harvey said. “It’s flattering to be recognized for the work that you do, but it’s certainly not expected. It’s just not what you think about when you’re just doing your work.”
As part of her role at the Swanson School, Harvey personally manages a small caseload of advisees, but mostly oversees all first-year programming and advising for engineering students – including making sure students are adapting emotionally and academically to college life.
“Instead of students just trying to figure out what their major is going to be, we want them to journey toward how they want to plan a career with that major and how they plan to do that over the next four years,” Harvey said.
Mary Besterfield-Sacre, associate dean for academic affairs, Nickolas A. DeCecco professor, and director of the Engineering Education Research Center, said that Harvey has a vested interest in all the students she oversees.
“She wants to see their success,” Besterfield-Sacre said. “She does this with a constant eye on how to improve the professional development programming and advising we provide to our students.”
Starting her career in residence life and first-year programing, Harvey has always had a soft spot for younger students.
“I love their willingness to take a risk,” Harvey said.
She was once in their shoes as a freshman majoring in psychology at Loyola University Chicago, where she credits her own mentors for her now successful career in student advising. Later, professional mentors in graduate school and in her first professional roles shaped her ideas of what mentoring should look like.
“When I was a student and a young professional, my mentors were instrumental in the development of both my personal and professional identity, and I want to have the same effect on the students and staff professionals I work with now,” Harvey said.
In her role, Harvey wants to empower both her staff and students to exercise their strengths in areas they have interest. She doesn’t ever expect a thank you note from students, but the occasional one is nice. Just recently, a student reached out notifying her of a friend’s graduation. Harvey was instrumental in bringing those students together. She helped forge their friendship as a way to help them both navigate the Swanson School.
“It made my whole day to know I was able to find support for students that needed it,” Harvey said. “I don’t know if that’s mentoring necessarily, but those moments happen from time to time and they matter.”
Recipients of the 2022 Chancellor’s Awards receive a $2,500 prize. A plaque with their name will also be added to the Chancellor’s Award for Staff display in the William Pitt Union.