By Debbie Willmschen
As the director of academic services for the Wilson College of Textiles, Heather Lyerly has learned to navigate the challenges of working with many different groups of students, staff and faculty. In her role, Lyerly oversees academic advising for the college and also coordinates admissions and collaborates with the recruitment team. She works closely with the Wilson College directors of undergraduate programs and department chairs to ensure that students are set up for academic success. In addition, Lyerly advises students, working primarily with incoming transfer students.
Lyerly’s passion for student development as well as her commitment to providing a positive student experience were acknowledged recently with two awards. At the university level, Lyerly received the Carrie McLean Award, which recognizes an outstanding administrator who has oversight of an advising function. At the national level, Lyerly also was honored with a Certificate of Merit in the administrator category by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising for 2021.
According to her colleagues, these honors were well deserved, as Lyerly’s list of accomplishments during her time with Wilson College are extensive. Since beginning her time with the college in 2016, first as the associate director for advising and admissions before becoming director, Lyerly implemented several programs committed to improving faculty and student advising. Some of these programs include advisor information sessions, regular “lunch and learn” sessions and training sessions that provide information and support for student success. She also helped to ensure a seamless transition to virtual technologies during the challenging times created by COVID-19.
Karen Leonas, professor of textile sciences at Wilson College says, “I am grateful for Heather’s support, advocacy and assistance during the advising process. She is always responsive to questions and anticipates the needs of the Wilson College advisors, faculty and students. In addition, she has instilled a supportive, responsive and collaborative culture in her team and they are all a pleasure to work with.”
Likewise, Pam Rose, who served as a graduate student intern with Lyerly in the Center for Academic, Career and Student Services (ACSS), echoes similar sentiments.
“During my year as a graduate intern, I personally benefited from Heather’s extensive knowledge and counseling skills,” Rose says. “Heather works hard to understand student challenges and does whatever she can to improve the student experiences.”
Humbled by the recognition, Lyerly credits her success to the support she receives from the entire ACSS team.
“I was surprised and honored,” Lyerly says. “We’ve been able to accomplish so much as a team. I’m especially proud of the work that we’ve done with implementing the faculty advisor training program. That particular project was something that was in process for several years, and I want to give special credit to Meggie Metcalf, who really did a lot of the legwork to get it going. It was a group project and was definitely something that was much needed. Although it’s still very new, we’re definitely proud of it.”
Academic Services is housed in the ACSS at Wilson College. The ACSS supports students through all stages of their NC State journey. Current students receive support from the ACSS staff through academic advising, career services, scholarships, student engagement and peer tutoring. The ACSS uses a holistic approach to provide exemplary academic, career and student support programs and services for all Wilson College students.
Lyerly’s personal philosophy matches closely with that of the ACSS and contributes to her success as an advisor.
“When working with students, I strive to provide information, support and encouragement,” Lyerly says. “I meet them where they are and teach them how to become independent learners and critical thinkers. The most rewarding part of my job is helping students move from being consumed with an issue to feeling that they can get through it. When I see them relax, breathe, and say ‘Yes, I’ve got this!’ then I know we’ve provided them the support they need to be a success.”