Student Experience

Leading the Way for Student Success

Celebrating Michelle Southward, award-winning director of advising

Michelle Southward, smiling

icon of a calendarFebruary 14, 2020

icon of a pencilBy Adam DePollo

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Students majoring in the School of Health Sciences’ degree programs have a powerful friend in Michelle Southward, director of advising and student services.

With Master’s degrees in both counseling and administration, and nearly two decades of experience at OU, Southward brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her work in the School’s advising office.

When she joined the School of Health Sciences in 2008 after previous roles as an admissions adviser, retention coordinator, and assistant director for the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, Southward collected data to assess the needs of students and to support their success. She was determined to provide ample and equitable assistance to all students in the School. From her research efforts, Southward found opportunities for growth and development.  

She redesigned the operations of the academic advising office to a “caseload by major” model, which improved student satisfaction and success. 

“We are intentional in our advising practices and student outreach, providing key information and resources to impact student's academic and social successes,” Southward says.

Appreciating the diversity of student backgrounds, she implemented initiatives among her team to personalize the advising experience, including online appointments via WebEx and Google Meet, one-on-one transfer student orientation sessions, Macomb University Center advising appointments, and pop-up academic advising across campus, to name a few. 

Her team not only works with students to choose and navigate their major, but also to consider the pursuit of post-graduate careers and degrees. “We’re here to support every student, at every stage of their journey,” Southward says. 

Southward’s approach to advising has been a resounding success for the School of Health Sciences — she was the first OU advising director to win the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) Outstanding Advising Administrator Award in 2012. Beyond her own success, every member of her staff has been nominated for advising awards at OU. This past year, Nancy Osmialowski won the Outstanding Academic Adviser Award while Hnou Vue won the OU’s Outstanding New Academic Adviser Award and Lauren Leve was awarded the NACADA regional award for excellence in advising.

Awards aside, Southward continues to focus on achieving the best outcomes for School of Health Sciences students.  “We’re doing everything we can to partner with our students and to help them grow during their time at the university,” she says.

Explore the School of Health Sciences’ academic advising team

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