MSU’s Department of Student Life is an office within the University that enhances our educational environment through the promotion of student rights and responsibilities. The annual Department of Student Life Leadership Awards Reception recognizes the outstanding efforts of students, advisors, and programs that provide opportunities for educational growth and self-assessment. This year, in a virtual 20th annual ceremony broadcasted on YouTube Premiere, RCPD Leadership Development Specialist Liz Fuller was recognized with the 2021 New Advisor of the Year award.
The New Advisor of the Year award recognizes the accomplishments of an MSU faculty or staff member serving in a student organization advisor role for the first time. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Liz became the new lead advisor for Tower Guard, a prestigious student service organization dedicated to assisting students with disabilities at MSU. Since joining the RCPD in 2015, Liz has dedicated herself to promoting a more inclusive and equitable campus environment. With the switch to virtual learning, she withstood the challenges of an online format and upheld her goal of maintaining Tower Guard’s mission, leading to the nomination and acceptance of this award.
Liz was nominated for the New Advisor of the Year award by 2020-2021 Tower Guard President, Madeleine Russell. An excerpt of the nomination letter states:
“Liz’s extensive knowledge of accessibility, acquired through her five years at the RCPD, has equipped her to educate all of us on issues of inclusivity for people of all accessibility levels. She strengthens us as student-leaders by encouraging us to reflect inward to be cognizant of our own contributions towards building a more equitable and inclusive campus environment. She has done this not only by highlighting the impact MSU Tower Guard volunteers have, but by also emphasizing how simple it is to consider accessibility throughout all aspects of our club involvement. Her constant encouragement and enthusiasm during a year of unprecedented circumstances not only kept students engaged and motivated, but pushed us to break boundaries.”
About the award, Liz said: “Being nominated was a huge surprise and very flattering, but then finding out I had actually won was astounding, especially when I learned how amazing the other candidates were. It’s the students themselves who keep me motivated. Working with them, mentoring them, and watching them grow. It was so rewarding and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity.”
As Tower Guard advisor, Liz implemented new opportunities for skill-building within the organization. Through the formation of Impact Teams, smaller groups of Tower Guard students were able to build more intimate communities within the Tower Guard environment. Members devoted themselves to the work, which included such tasks as learning braille, writing descriptive word maps of buildings, and establishing an RCPD student community that encouraged vital social interaction during the isolation of the pandemic. Having the opportunity to work closely with so many Tower Guard members in a variety of ways gave Liz the ability to witness their growth and confidence.
Liz expresses: “One big obstacle this year was figuring out a way to make Tower Guard’s usual process of converting physical books into accessible digital texts, something which could be done remotely. I ended up completely rebuilding that process from the ground up, developing and implementing new training as well as tracking the workflow across the entire year. It was a huge challenge but I’m proud of how undaunted Tower Guard was by it. The changes we made to the process out of necessity are ones we will keep implementing even after remote work is no longer necessary.”
Tower Guard members only serve for a single year before selecting the next group and moving on. As Liz prepares to work with the next class of the Tower Guard organization, she shares: “I’m excited to start it all over again with a new group! I haven’t done this role in a non-pandemic environment yet, so I feel like the next few years will be full of change and exciting opportunities.”