Merissa Milton receives 2021 Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising

Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics

Illinois Physics Senior Academic Advisor Merissa Milton
Illinois Physics Senior Academic Advisor Merissa Milton
Illinois Physics Senior Academic Advisor Merissa Milton has been selected for the University of Illinois 2021 Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising.

Recipients of this award are recognized for their excellence in and innovative approaches to undergraduate advising, and for having had a major impact on undergraduate students and their intellectual development through sustained academic advising relationships. The award, part of the Campus Awards for Excellence in Instruction program, will be presented to Milton at the annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence in May.

Milton was nominated for this award by Illinois Physics Professor Brian DeMarco, who served until recently as the department’s associate head for undergraduate programs. In the nomination, DeMarco commends Milton for “understanding, cherishing, and helping to develop the potential of every student she advises.”

DeMarco notes, “Ms. Merissa Milton is an exceptional academic advisor who is a leader in the Physics Department and the Grainger College of Engineering. Her background in educational policy is a unique strength that has been the foundation of the extensive and innovative support programs that she has developed. Merissa has had a high, sustained impact on student success, and her work is a cornerstone of our undergraduate program.”

Milton advises the department’s more than 650 physics majors in two colleges, helping each student to examine his or her unique aspirations. Milton notes that, whether students are headed toward a professional career or an advanced degree, career goals evolve over the course of a four-year program, as do the requisite skillsets and experiences required. Milton meets with each freshman and sophomore physics major at least once each fall and spring semester to review progress toward degree and planned courses. During this mandatory advising, she also checks in to see how each student is coping with the stresses of university life and a rigorous major.

Illinois Physics Senior Academic Advisor Merissa Milton advises a student prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics
Illinois Physics Senior Academic Advisor Merissa Milton advises a student prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Siv Schwink for Illinois Physics
Milton connects high-achieving students and international students to important resources within the University’s network of enrichment opportunities. She also connects at-risk students with academic-support and campus counseling resources, supporting and guiding the necessary return to good academic standing with some motherly “tough love.” She always encourages students to come back to see her if any concerns or questions come up, and even at her busiest, makes time for students who may need her attention.

Additionally, Milton meets with prospective and admitted students and their families, organizes the PHYS 110 Physics Orientation course and the PHYS 199 Physics Careers and Research course, and coordinates the department’s peer- and faculty-mentor program. She additionally works closely with Engineering Career Services to provide students with professional development.

Milton holds a master’s degree in educational policies with a concentration in diversity and equity issues. She is a three-time recipient of the Engineering Council Outstanding Advising Award, presented annually to the top 10 percent of advisers in the College of Engineering.

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