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Students nominate Eigel for university award

By Stewart MacInnis

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 34 - July 2, 1998

When William Eigel became a professor he expected to help students find their way through the education process into a job. He's done it so well, Virginia Tech presented him with its Award for Excellence in Career Advising.
What Eigel finds most gratifying, however, is that the students he advises in the Department of Food Science and Technology nominated him for the prestigious campus award. Usually, professors are nominated for the award by their departments or by fellow faculty members.
"Career advising is just making students aware of opportunities available in this particular career field," Eigel said. "If it sounds like something they'd be interested in I serve as their adviser, helping them decide on the academic courses that will best help them. And when they come to the end of college, I help them figure out what to do next."
Eigel is quick to point out that four other faculty members in the department advise students. Eigel is the coordinating counselor for the department, meeting regularly with his counterparts in other departments of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and with the college's academic leaders.
"This is a team effort," he said. "The entire department tries to develop good relationships with students. We try to make it a family-type environment."
The key to effective counseling, Eigel said, is "taking time to sit down with students and chat with them when that's what they want. Some don't want that, and that's fine. But it seems to help if they know you're there and available if they need someone to listen to them."
Heather McMahon, a graduate student in the department and president of the Food Science Club, said the club nominated Eigel for the award because of his tireless efforts on behalf of students.
"Through constant communications with the food-science industry he remains informed about job openings, and relays this information to students through e-mail and a posting board," she wrote in a nomination letter. "Many evenings Dr. Eigel holds resume-building sessions where he helps students prepare their resumes and hone interview skills."
He also prepares resume packets for graduating students which are distributed to many potential employers nation wide. The packet, McMahon said, "is essential for the high placement rate of our graduates."
One former student praised Eigel for his advising efforts. "He was instrumental in helping me to find a job doing what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it," the graduate said. "Without the help of Dr. Eigel I would not be who I am today, and for this I am extremely grateful."
Advising is a duty Eigel performs in addition to his teaching responsibilities. What makes advising so worthwhile, he said, is the appreciation of the students.
"A real satisfaction comes from the times when students come back and thank me for my help," he said.