It is with feelings of deep appreciation mixed with regret, that we write to announce the departure of Susan Hagstrom from her position as Director of the Office of Undergraduate Advising for the CED. Her absence will be deeply felt by faculty, staff and students alike, all of whom have benefited from her collegiality, wisdom, ethics, and progressive thinking over the years. Susan will soon begin a newly created campus-level appointment as Manager of Advising Strategy and Training. Her position will be focused on enhancing advising and coordinating support for the academic and co-curricular community, with emphasis on collaboration with the Division of Equity and Inclusion.
Prior to her current position, Susan spent 15 years in the College of Letters and Science as an Advisor, Policy Analyst, and Assistant Director. When she arrived at the CED 11 years ago under the new Deanship of Jennifer Wolch, the advising program as it is structured today did not exist. It lacked its own dedicated space, and locations for meetings with students were woefully inadequate. Over the course of the next few years, the advising staff was expanded and administrative processes were redesigned. Working in collaboration with the CED’s new advising team, Susan developed the beginning of an organizational model that now supports what many regard as the best advising office on campus.
Susan is both an administrative systems builder and a self-described “data activist.” Throughout her career at the CED, she has designed organizational structures, workflows, and innumerable collaborations, all with the best interests of our students at the forefront of her planning. One of her first steps was to create a demographic snapshot of our student body, something that had not been done in the past. The data revealed the diverse cultural composition of CED students and their often challenging economic backgrounds. Subsequent information from the newly launched “Cal Answers” database allowed a deeper and more comparative analysis, showing that CED was home to the highest percentage of historically underrepresented minority students, and Pell Grant recipients, of any college on our campus.
These demographic insights, enhanced by the on-the-ground knowledge of an empathetic advising staff, led to the CED’s innovative fee waiver program. The Advising Office worked with partners across the CED to launch an in-house shop that sells affordable supplies to students. Part of the profits support waivers to Pell Grant and Dream Act Scholarship recipients for fees charged to access the College’s lab and fabrication shops. Susan has also empowered advising staff to develop an evolving set of co-curricular activities that enrich the educational experience of our students. These range from a new “strengths-based” seminar that provides resources, connections and community for first generation and low income students, to the CED’s Ambassador Program, which trains a dedicated cohort of student-volunteers to participate in vital outreach and yield activities, as part of our annual admissions process.
Susan’s tireless efforts have created an Advising Office that has been widely recognized as pathbreaking. In 2017, she received the Mary Slakey Howell Excellence in Advising Award, the highest recognition of its kind at Berkeley. The Advising Office has received two national awards of excellence (in 2013 and 2014), and three campus awards for excellence in management. Although she is leaving the CED, Susan’s influence will continue on in the ethical systems and standards she has created for advising. We are very grateful for her years of enlightened leadership, defined by compassion, generosity of spirit and a deep commitment to making the CED a better place.