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An Interview with Stephanie Jares, winner of NC State’s New Academic Advisor Award

Stephanie Jares

Ms. Stephanie Jares is originally from Los Angeles, Calif., and she moved to the East Coast 26 years ago, then to Texas and back to the East Coast. She moved to Raleigh eight years ago and will have been working at NC State for seven years this June.

She began her career at NC State working in the Poole College of Management. Prior to getting this position, she had devoted 10 years to being a full-time mom. When she moved to Raleigh, she decided that she wanted to return to her career in higher education, and she wanted to achieve her dream of becoming an academic advisor. In order to do so, she had to attain a master’s degree, so she worked as an administrative support associate at the Poole College of Management and went back to school (here at NC State; GO PACK).

Stephanie Jares.

She graduated with her master’s degree in liberal studies with concentrations in higher education and history in December of 2018. One year later, she became the coordinator of advising for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. When she finally achieved this goal, she continued reaching for the stars and ended up going back to school again to get another master’s degree in education here at NC State, which she completed in December 2021. With that degree, she hopes to have a chance to teach a U.S. history course while continuing her academic advising career.

I luckily have Ms. Jares as my advisor and to say she is amazing is an understatement. I can always go to her for advice, encouragement, updates and even just to talk. I am so blessed to have an advisor as amazing as she is. She was the first person I communicated with when I was admitted to State and we have gotten to know each other pretty well since then.  I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of an undergraduate advising award.

In January of 2022, Ms. Jares was awarded the NC State New Academic Advisor Award for 2021-2022. The New Advisor Award is presented to an outstanding primary role advisor who has been advising for up to three years, including service at all institutions. Advising makes up 50 percent or more of the individual’s responsibilities.

As the coordinator of advising, she has a permanent caseload of students and advises other students in the department from the time they are admitted to NC State until they are assigned a faculty advisor during their first semester as a major. On top of winning this award, Ms. Jares will represent NC State as a nominee for the NACADA National Outstanding New Advisor Award at the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Conference, which will be held in October in Portland, Oregon. She will participate in the NACADA Advising Annual Convention alongside advisors from across the country and around the world.

Before even winning this award, Ms. Jares said that she shed tears over the nomination. She was so grateful to have been nominated for this award in her first academic advising position after years of chasing her dream. She explained how part of the nomination process was collecting letters of nomination from her advisees as well as the support of Dr. Karen Young and also Ms. Jares’ supervisor, Dr. Troy Case, which meant the world to her because of all the support she received.

I was actually one of the advisees who wrote a letter of recommendation for Ms. Jares and I was honored that she thought of me during an important moment like this. The letter of support was easy to write because there were so many reasons why Ms. Jares was deserving of the award such as the care with which she approaches her advising responsibilities and the thought she puts into each interaction with her students. When I was listening to the awards ceremony in the car and when they announced Ms. Jares was the winner, I shouted with excitement. I was so pleased to see someone I know to get the recognition they deserve and have worked so hard to achieve.

Ms. Jares said that one of the most important things to her is for students to feel connected to the department and, especially at a school as big as NC State, that students know that they are important and that they are cared about as people. They should understand that they come first and their classes come second. In an effort to make sure these goals are achieved,

Ms. Jares created the Department of Sociology and Anthropology Student Ambassadors Program in January 2020. The goal was to have a group of current students who could help make their peers feel connected to the department and university. When Ms. Jares reached out to every student in the department to gauge interest in this opportunity, she had 18 students excited to work with her. They met together once in person and soon after Covid hit and everything went virtual  Ms. Jares is so proud of how the Ambassadors help others in the Department and how they help incoming students – this is what she is most proud of – not what she has done for it but for what the Student Ambassadors do every day for their fellow majors. 

I was fortunate to become one of these student ambassadors and in that role I write articles for the Department newsletter, write posts to go on our department’s Facebook page, participate in Student Connections programs and email my group of students biweekly! It is really amazing to have an impact on incoming students and to have the ability to answer any questions they have as they are deciding on which university to attend.  I also have the chance to reach out to current students and address any concerns or questions they may have. 

I can speak from firsthand experience that about 80% of any meeting with Ms. Jares involves getting to know you – your family, what you like to do, your significant other – she is truly there for you in any way you allow her to be. Only about 20% of the time is spent making sure you are in the correct classes. She truly emphasizes that you come first and your classes come second; she makes you feel important and it is extremely encouraging. Ms. Jares is in contact with students from the day they are accepted to State until the time they are assigned to an advisor; which could be her or one of the other nine fantastic advisors in the department. She oversees the other advisors, and one of my favorite things she does is to send a monthly “homework assignment”. It is a question you must answer pertaining to you, how you are doing, and any concerns you have, and if you don’t answer Ms. Jares will continue to check in on you to make sure she hears from you. Ms. Jares has always emphasized that you come first – it’s not about the grade, the grade doesn’t define you – we take care of YOU first and then see what we can do to make your time here more manageable. 

When asking Ms. Jares what her favorite part about being an advisor was, she couldn’t just pick one. She adores her job so she listed out some of her favorite parts. She said she loves the student ambassadors, seeing a student believe in themselves, loves working in a school where she is a two-time alum, she adores this school as much if not more than anyone. Since she is in contact with her advisees from the moment they enter until the time they graduate she says this time is a gift. She is grateful for the time she gets to connect with us.

With such specific and amazing goals in life, I wondered what kind of people or experiences shaped Ms. Jares’ goals.  When I had the opportunity to ask this question she credited 3 people. In no particular order, she began with crediting her mom. Her mom passed away when Ms. Jares was 26 years old and throughout her life, she idolized her for her mom’s ability to listen and help those around her. She wanted to follow her mom’s example because she unfortunately was never able to watch Ms. Jares succeed, including graduating from college or having a career.  I feel certain that her mother is beaming with pride watching Ms. Jares accomplish all her dreams and help those around her. The next person she credited with inspiring her was her 17-year-old daughter.  She wants her to see there are people out there who will help others. And lastly, she credits her high school history teacher Dr. Cross. He got her interested in becoming a History teacher and he always believed in making a difference with students and was there for Ms. Jares throughout her life. He always told her that it’s not about the school or the classes – taking care of yourself is the most important part – which is how Ms. Jares works with students.

Ms. Jares wanted to give students a little advice, and that is to never give up.  That is how she has lived her life.  She credits her family, her husband, her daughter, and her dog Bella as well as her students as her sources of motivation. Life can be hard, she knows that as a cancer survivor. But despite the challenges, she finished her bachelor’s degree as a non-traditional student in her 30s, and her two master’s degrees while working full time with a family.   Still, she says it has all been worth it because she is in a career she loves and at a university, she loves with students she loves – life is short but is a lot more enjoyable if you can do what you love!

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to interview such an amazing Department of Sociology and Anthropology faculty member and I hope that if you ever have the opportunity to take a course or interact with her that you feel inspired enough to do so!

headshot of Geena Thomas

This article is by Geena Thomas, a Department of Sociology and Anthropology student ambassador majoring in criminology and minoring in forensic science.