Award-winning advisor Annette Strzelecki helps COPH undergrads define success

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“A 4.0 GPA does not define a successful student,” said Annette Strzelecki (pronounced “Strez-leckie”), winner of the 2013-14 USF Outstanding Undergraduate Advising Award. “I would define successful students as ones who have gotten involved, explored their identity, taken on leadership rolls, found out what they are passionate about, done research, volunteered and had internships in their areas of interest.”

Strzelecki is a senior academic advisor for the College of Public Health. The university-wide Outstanding Undergraduate Advising Award is given annually through the provost’s office.

Strzelecki’s path to public health and COPH was a bit different than most. Born in Plainfield, Ind., her training is in education. With a BS in elementary education from Ball State University and an MS in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University, she was ready for a career in academia but about to make a discovery that would add an important detail to her direction.

Annette Strzelecki

Annette Strzelecki

“I was actually introduced to public health when looking to get into the advising field,” she said. “When I saw the job posting, I spent time researching more about public health and found how much it impacted my everyday life. I found throughout my training how passionate and dedicated public health students, faculty and staff are about making an impact, and I knew I was in the right place.

“What interests me most about the public health field is the fact that everyone working in it can be an agent of change. Through working with undergraduate students, I see their varying interests in public health, but they all are committed to making an impact in the world that correlates with their strengths. One may want to go to Africa to work in HIV/AIDs education, and another may want to work for the FDA to inspect food, but they both want to improve the quality of life for others through preventive measures.”

Strzelecki previously spent four years as a USF residence life coordinator. Her role as senior academic advisor includes supervising two other advisors, advising BSPH students on courses and policies, overseeing graduation certification, and undergraduate recruiting for public health majors and minors.

“My time at USF as an advisor in COPH is spent working with an amazing undergraduate team that is dedicated to doing its best for our students,” she said. “Dr. [Kay] Perrin has made sure to allow her staff the opportunities to be creative and to excel in their positions. It is rewarding to me to see the students start early in the major and see how they find their passions through their courses and involvement. I’ve been amazed by how, every week, I’m still presented by students with new unique issues that I need to solve.”

“Annette is most deserving of this outstanding award,” said Perrin, COPH associate professor and assistant dean of undergraduate studies. “She is a creative team player with passion for her job and the success of the undergraduate students.”

Strzelecki said she hopes to continue to grow in her position and learn more about career counseling. Other than that, she’d love to see the world, all those places where so many of her students come from. Given that and family as far-flung as Indiana, the District of Columbia and Thailand,she has an unusual if not far-fetched wish.

“I would like a teleportation device,” she said. “The world is so big, and I hate thinking I will only see a small sliver of its beauty and culture.”

Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health. Photo courtesy of Annette Strzelecki.