Sondra C. VanderPloeg of Wilmot, N.H., received the Nancy Beyer Opler '56 Award for Excellence in Advising at Colby-Sawyer College's 2013 Commencement on Saturday, May 11. The award recognizes a faculty member who is accessible to advisees; makes a meaningful connection with advisees that continues over time; supports advisees in academic and professional planning; and facilitates advisees' adjustment to the community. Based on students' nominations, the recipient also must have a good understanding of the college's policies and procedures, advocate for the advisees' best interests and support their autonomy and responsibility.
VanderPloeg joined Colby-Sawyer College as a reference librarian and cataloger in 2007 and has moved into information literacy, teaching students research and critical thinking skills for the internet age. VanderPloeg encouraged the library to subscribe to LibGuides online instruction sites and spearheaded the Embedded Librarian Program, providing students in every section of Writing 105 with support from reference librarians and direction relative to library resources.
VanderPloeg serves as an advisor for students who have not yet declared their major. One of her advisees nominated VanderPloeg because "she has had the largest impact on my academic career of anyone on campus." The student described VanderPloeg as "accessible, organized and professional, responding to my needs promptly" and said she "has made an unmatched effort in understanding my goals as a student here at Colby-Sawyer. Our meetings are always productive and leave me feeling well prepared to tackle whatever task may be ahead of me." But while VanderPloeg provides answers—no matter how complex the issue—the student appreciated that "she advocates for my responsibility to make decisions for myself as a student."
Another advisee found that VanderPloeg has "connected with me on a personal level, as an individual with unique aspirations who requires unique opportunities to achieve." In the nomination, the student wrote, "Sondra has gone above and beyond her duties as an academic advisor and provided the strongest foundation possible for my career as a student and even after college."
A resident of Wilmot, N.H., VanderPloeg earned a B.A. in International Relations from Brown University, a Master of Library Science Degree from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, and a Master of Arts in Education in Secondary Social Sciences at the College of William & Mary.