Wilkins hired as new freshman academic advisor


Gunter Kleist

Cait Wilkins

As the newly hired freshman academic advisor at Johnson State College, Cait Wilkins will be one of the first people welcoming the newly enrolled students of the first class of Northern Vermont University in the fall.

The role of the freshman academic advisors is to help freshman students transition into college in both their academic life and social life and be a welcoming presence and resource for anyone needing guidance.

“I’m still learning,” said Wilkins. “It’s interesting and exciting, because I’m coming in at a time when I won’t have advisees right now until kids enroll over the summer. So I’m really getting to spend a lot of time learning our curriculum, especially what it means with the unification, and really learning all the programing so I can really understand what we are talking about.”

Wilkin’s predecessor, Emily Neilsen, transferred to the First Year Experience office shortly before Wilkins was hired to fulfill the role of First Year Events Coordinator.

A graduate of Saint Michael’s College, Wilkins is arriving at JSC directly from working at Vermont Academy, a private high school in southern Vermont, where she was the associate director of admissions, a dorm parent and an advisor.

Russ Weiss, the other current freshman academic advisor, and Wilkins will each be advising half of the incoming freshman class for the fall semester of 2018. Wilkins says that, because of this prior experience with advising and facilitating students during their transitions into school and throughout their academic career, she feels as though her role as an academic advisor will come naturally to her.

“It’s funny — as much as all this is really new for me, advising and meeting with people and talking about planning through admissions — being an advisor is really natural for me,” said Wilkins.

Wilkins hopes to create a welcoming and stress-free environment for incoming students who have any concerns about the challenges of transitioning into college.

“It’s great because I’m here with everyone within registration, and I’ve learned so much from them,” said Wilkins. “But even I’m still figuring out who does what, and I see kids come in and get really confused and need help. It’s intimidating enough to walk into the office.”

Because of this, Wilkins plans on enhancing the office by creating a board with pictures of the staff and work-study students working within the registrar’s office, featuring their names, their role in the office and fun facts about them. She hopes that this will help familiarize students further with the office and create an even more welcoming environment.

Another project that Wilkins is currently working on is refocusing and revamping the “Finish in Four” graduate plan at JSC.

“It’s important to have a really clear-cut plan for students,” said Wilkins. “Especially, for example, an education major can’t risk taking the wrong class. You’re not going to graduate in four years and that’s a big deal. So [it’s good] to have someone who has your best interest and knows the curriculum to be able to know you’re on the right path and give you that reassurance.”

Wilkins is passionate about encouraging students to feel completely comfortable with reaching out for help and guidance. All too often, she has seen students who are too afraid to ask for help, and she hopes to encourage students to step up and take that first step. She said she wants to be sure that her presence as the new freshman advisor brings a welcoming and accepting atmosphere to academic advising.

“What I care most about is empowering students and being that person who can help kids get through college,” said Wilkins. “That’s really important and I’m really excited about that.”