IUPUI Honors College senior academic advisor awarded as Outstanding Advisor


Kara Woodlee, assistant director and senior academic advisor in the IUPUI Honors College, was awarded the Outstanding Advising Award by NACADA. The NACADA award program allows one nominee per campus, and Woodlee was awarded the campuswide Outstanding Advisor Award through JACADA in December 2020.

“The award was incredibly competitive.” Kristy Sheeler, executive associate dean of the IUPUI Honors College, said. “While the number of nominees is not posted, NACADA’s global reach and prestige among the advising community certainly suggest the award is highly competitive.” 

Woodlee has been with the IUPUI Honors College since 2015. She has also worked as an advisor at IUPUC, Penn State, and the University of South Carolina. In her time at IUPUI, she has advised 300 incoming and continuing Honors Scholars each year on their co-curricular opportunities, conducted targeted student outreach, developed new programming, led development and implementation of honors advising syllabus, and more.  

Our advisors are frequently selected for national awards by NACADA, which speaks to the exemplary advising program we have at IUPUI. It’s gratifying to be a part of it.

Kara Woodlee

Sheeler, who nominated Woodlee for the JACADA award and provided a letter of support for the NACADA award, said that Woodlee’s achievement is not only a testament to her hard work and dedication toward Honors College scholars, but is also an important recognition for IUPUI and the Honors College. 

“The award contributes to the culture that IUPUI has worked so hard to develop, especially during a pandemic, that students are welcome and valued,” Sheeler said. “Ms. Woodlee’s work contributes to that mission. The Honors College is fortunate that she is a member of our advising team.” 

Woodlee was shocked when she found out she received the national recognition, but found it meaningful to be able to represent the Honors College and IUPUI in a positive way. 

“Our advisors are frequently selected for national awards by NACADA, which speaks to the exemplary advising program we have at IUPUI. It’s gratifying to be a part of it,” Woodlee said. 

She also felt like the award proved how she chose the right path for herself. As a first-generation student, she is excited to be in a place where she can make a difference in her students' lives, and she enjoys doing so. 

“I focus on empowering students and helping them build the confidence to write their own stories and lead the lives they want,” Woodlee said. “I love seeing their excitement when we can figure out how to make something work that they previously didn’t think could happen, like studying abroad or getting into graduate school.” 

One of the students whom she helped empower was Sarah Ali, a Bepko Scholar. Ali provided a letter of support for Woodlee’s nomination, which described how Woodlee helped her achieve goals, built her confidence, and guided her through personal challenges. 

“Kara went beyond the minimum duties of a standard academic advisor,” Ali said in her letter. “There is no one else I know that is more deserving of the NACADA Outstanding Advising Award than Kara Woodlee because of her demonstrated commitment to her students’ academic, professional, and personal success.” 

Another student Woodlee worked with, Isra Haider, described in her letter of support how Woodlee helped her find her passion at IUPUI.  

When Haider, who came to IUPUI as a biology major, was unsure of what to do when she had to either add classes to maintain her full-time student status or graduate early, she reached out to Woodlee. After discussing Haider’s interest in sociology, Woodlee connected her with a student in a similar situation and a sociology academic advisor. 

“Because of Kara’s resourcefulness, I was able to find clarity on this issue and declared my major in sociology by the end of my sophomore year,” Haider said in her letter of support. “My sociology major has greatly changed the way I see the world, and thanks to Kara, I found my passion for fighting health inequalities caused by social determinants.” 

Along with Haider and Ali, two other students detailed their support of Woodlee in their letters. Molly Pederson said Woodlee enhanced her educational experience, provided her with opportunities and resources, and encouraged her to take on leadership roles. 

“As a direct result of her advising, I became an active member of Academics for Civic Engagement (ACE) and have now been the president since fall 2019,” Pederson said in her letter of support. “Because of her many contributions to my success as an IUPUI honors student, Kara Woodlee is a deserving recipient of this award.” 

Noah Wolfgang also wrote a letter of support describing how Woodlee helped him succeed academically through her honesty, openness, and welcoming energy. 

“While within individual meetings she seems solely committed to helping me, I am positive that she makes personal connections with all of the students whom she advises,” Wolfgang said in his letter of support. “Her open aura is always calming for me, and I am sure that others feel the same.” 

Along with students providing proof of how well her advising philosophy works, Woodlee feels this award is a testament to her approach and philosophy and plans to continue to learn to enhance her practice. One of the ways her lifelong learning approach contributed to her receiving the award was seen through her participation in a professional development program. 

“I participated in the Academic Advisor Development Program (AADP) and was successfully promoted to senior academic advisor, which helped me with intentionally building certain skills into my advising,” Woodlee said. 

Along with her years of experience teaching both the online Appreciative Advising course and first-year seminar courses assisting in her development as an advisor, the support from the Honors College and JACADA has also helped her grow into the advisor she is today. 

“The Honors College office is such a supportive team where a success for one of us is a success for the team,” Woodlee said. “The colleagues, mentors, and friends I have made through JACADA have been instrumental to my growth at IUPUI. They are a passionate group of people who strive for the betterment of our campus, and I’ve learned so much as an active member of JACADA.” 

With Woodlee’s amazing impact on the students she advises, she plans to move forward by exploring “issues of equity and access.” She also plans to become an advocate for a more welcoming environment and is looking into developing the Honors College advising curriculum. 

“I have also taken a special interest in the use of technology in advising and developing our advising curriculum, so I look forward to working on the new initiatives taking shape in our office,” Woodlee said. 

For more information on NACADA and the Outstanding Advisor Award, click here.