More than an adviser

Sept. 7, 2012

Carla Burkhardt at her desk.

Carla Burkhardt, College of Science and Health, will receive the 2012 Academic Staff Excellence Award during the annual Academic Staff Council Kickoff Meeting at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in the Cameron Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall.

Assistant to the Dean loves problem-solving for students

Carla Burkhardt remembers the help she received from the assistant to the dean when she transferred to UW-La Crosse in the mid-’80s. She never thought she would one day advise students in a similar role.

“When I met with Lois Wirkus as a transfer student, I never dreamed I’d be working alongside of her 10 years later,” says Burkhardt.

But that’s what she’s been doing since her graduate assistantship in the Records and Registration Office in 1990-91. Burkhardt has served as an academic adviser in the College of Education; College of Arts, Letters and Sciences; Alliance for Human Development Programs; and College of Liberal Studies. Since 1998 she’s been academic assistant to the dean in the College of Science and Health.

Most importantly, she’s been helping students meander through the challenges of completing degree requirements.

“I’m proud of how we try to help students get to the bottom of a problem and are honest with them about challenges the may be facing,” she says.

Her “to-do” list with students includes:
• informing prospective students about UW-L programs
• explaining requirements and recommending coursework
• referring to appropriate faculty and staff
• enforcing academic policies
• processing students’ graduation. (“That’s my favorite,” she notes.)

Each task includes behind-the-scenes collaboration, committee work, articulations and agreements, evaluations, requirements, and paperwork, says Burkhardt.

“All these tasks ooze with students’ lives, their stories, their dreams, their struggles and their successes,” she explains. “When I’m able to help them with a problem they don’t think can be solved, it’s all worth it.”

Burkhardt has seen technological advances help ease advising, but, she says, a human touch is still needed. “It may list the classes they still need, but it doesn’t tell them the order to take the classes so it’s the most beneficial to them,” she notes.

Burkhardt says working with great colleagues over the years has made work enjoyable. She’s seen the workload and staff grow as the College of Science and Health’s enrollment has increased. But, she says problem-solving with students and helping them through advising hurdles is the highlight.

“I’m optimistic and somewhat of a Pollyanna,” she says. “I believe good things are going to happen.”

The Carla Burkhardt file
• Worked on campus since 1990. Academic Assistant to the Dean in the College of Science and Allied Health since 1998.
• Campus involvement: Academic Staff Council; Golden Key International Honour Society; Foundation Scholarship Committee; Centennial Capital Campaign Committee; numerous search and screen committees; more.
• Community involvement: church council and choir; UW-L Choral Union; poll inspector.
• Two degrees from UW-L — bachelor’s in elementary education, 1986; master’s in college student personnel, 1993.

Academic staff to honor Burkhardt
Carla Burkhardt, College of Science and Health, will receive the 2012 Academic Staff Excellence Award during the annual Academic Staff Council Kickoff Meeting at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, in the Cameron Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall. A program begins at 3:30. Award winners receive $750 in professional development funding. Recipients are selected by a committee of peers. Friends and colleagues are welcome to attend.

Academic Staff Excellence Award Recipients
1994—Mary Torstveit
1995—Grace Smith
1996—Chris Bakkum
1997—June Reinert
1998—Jim Jorstad*
1999—Dianne Morrison and Larry Ringgenberg
2000—Jon Hageseth and Sara Slayton
2001— Brad Quarberg
2002—Nelda Manter and Lori Petersen
2003—Joe Chilsen and Deon Nontelle*
2004—Jan VonRuden
2005—Marcia Johnson-Sage
2006—Diane Schumacher
2007—Janie Spencer*
2008 — Hong Rost
2009 — Sue Wrobel
2010 — Debbie Veglahn
2011 — Karla Stanek
2012 — Carla Burkhardt
*Recipient of the UW System Board of Regents Academic Staff Excellence Award the following year.