Andrea Pound 5If you’ve ever met Andrea Pound, chances are she has a selfie with you on her camera.

Collat’s infamous selfie queen is notorious for taking photos anywhere and everywhere, especially with her students.

“It’s gotten to the point that I constantly have to delete apps on my photo to free up space for the photos,” says Pound. “Maybe I just need to buy one with more storage. Do they make 1T phones yet?”

This lover of all things 1990s is also notorious for her ability to make all students feel at home and welcome in the Collat School of Business. That’s why when school leaders decided to restructure the school’s advising team and devote special attention to helping incoming freshmen successfully transition into college life, Pound was the first choice to take on the newly created Director of Freshman Success position.

“I just love talking to college students and helping them feel connected to this place that I love so much,” Pound says. “I began my UAB career almost 20 years ago, and I can’t imagine ever finding another role that I would love more. This just fits.” 

Charm, Kindness and Just a Little Bit of Silliness

One in three first-year students won’t return for their sophomore year due to academic struggles, lack of money, or issues with family, according to the latest national data. Collat’s leadership created the Director of Freshman Success role to buck this trend by helping the vulnerable freshman population feel comfortable in their first few semesters as a college student.

Pound was a perfect fit for the job due to her innate ability to befriend everyone she meets. She’s known to run a few minutes late to meetings because moving through the business building takes double the time it should. She’s constantly stopped by familiar faces – a student who needs a question answered, a coworker who wants to chat, or even a former student who has popped by to say hello.  They all get a smile and her ear.

Pound credits these interactions with helping her build the bonds that keep students in classes and in advising sessions. They keep showing up because, in a sea of unfamiliar faces, they recognize Pound as a confidant.

Andrea Pound 3“I really just try to incorporate intentional advising,” Pound says. “To me, intentional advising is being relatable. I try to be myself and connect with a student on a personal level. I try to help them figure out what they like so they can feel confident about their undergraduate career.”

Deanna Clark, who worked as Pound’s assistant in the Collat Welcome Center before graduating with her MBA, saw Pound’s impact on students firsthand.

 “She genuinely cares about all of her students and wants to see them become successful. Even when she is overwhelmingly busy, she will always stop what she is doing and help a student,” says Clark. “She will talk with them and won't let them leave until she has answered every question they have.”

Incorporating Support into Scheduling

Pound’s office in the CSB first-floor Welcome Center is flooded with light. Her favorite plants line the windowsill. Notes to respond to student emails and to-do lists litter her desk.  It’s an office that’s lived-in, not temporarily inhabited.

A visitor can’t help but notice a small photo prominently displayed by her computer. It’s a selfie, of course, taken with a former student she now calls a friend. The student is Chelsea Burks, a Collat alumna who, at one point, didn’t know if she would graduate. In August 2013, Burks was struck with a life-threating cardiac reaction that led to missed classes and multiple hospitalizations.

It was her final semester at UAB, and Burks says she nearly gave up on school.

Andrea Pound 4Pound, then an advisor for management and human resource management students, encouraged her and provided key support every step of the way. Pound visited the hospital regularly to bring Burks flowers, magazines, lotion and toiletries. There was also daily encouragement to never give up.

“She was just so open and willing to help me. She was more than an advisor. We’ve really become friends,” Burks says.

That’s the same feeling Pound wants to instill in all her freshmen. She created a new program this year to help her get to know the students and to allow them to get to know Collat.

The Freshmen Success Series is a weekly program designed to introduce students to business faculty and staff and to familiarize them with resources such as peer mentoring, career mentorship, career planning and free tutoring help. She structured the program around resources that students sometimes miss in the frenzy of new beginnings.

One week may focus on best social media and digital hygiene practices while another may introduce students to services provided in the Collat Career Center. Ultimately, every week’s program is carefully crafted to ensure students are aware of and comfortable with Collat’s resources. Plus they spend time with their business cohort, making new friends and getting to know the students with whom they’ll be taking upper level business classes.

“We want our students to be successful, and in order to be successful, they don’t need to feel intimidated to talk to professors or use the resources we provide them,” Pound says.

Andrea Pound 6Advise, and if That Doesn’t Work, Befriend

It’s no easy task remembering the names, faces and backgrounds of all 204 first-time freshmen and more than 100 active undeclared business majors. But for Pound, it’s her superpower.

As the mother of two teenage daughters (one of whom is currently navigating the college selection process), she understands how students learn, how they navigate college, and most importantly, what matters to them (hint: it’s not always making an A).

For some students, it’s simply surviving. Pound recalls a student who began missing appointments and doing poorly in his classes. She pulled him aside.

Andrea Pound 2He confided that his father was dying and he was now the provider for his family, which meant working more hours while juggling a full course load. Together they worked on a game plan that allowed him to devote more time to his personal life while still working toward graduation.

As a result, he was less stressed and did better both in his classes and at home, and, over time, was able to graduate.

“I see him sometimes on social media going to really cool places and doing some really exciting things,” Pound says.

Clark says the story is one of hundreds that demonstrate the impact Pound has on her students’ daily lives.

"My favorite thing about working for her is that she has a calming effect on whoever she speaks with,” says Clark.

“There have been many times when students come into the Welcome Center feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and they always leave feeling better and reassured that everything is going to be okay.”

 

Written by Jared Jones.

You can reach Andrea Pound, Director of Freshman Success, at ampound@uab.edu.