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Advisors, Advocates and Mentors 

From left, Jason Cotugno, Rachel Moody and Claudio Gomez. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)  

ALBANY, N.Y. (Dec. 9) – Rachel Moody, Jason Cotugno and Claudio Gomez have something in common: No matter how busy they are, they make students their top priority.

The three academic advisors have been selected to win a new award: the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising. They will be honored at a ceremony in the spring.

Rachel Moody

Rachel Moody, an academic advisor in the Advisement Services Center, is known for consistently going above and beyond the call of duty, for always putting her students first. She takes struggling students under her wing with kindness, gentleness and the right amount of firmness.

Moody was nominated by former and current students and by her colleagues alike. Many mentioned the initiative she started, Project MyStory, in which undergrads blog about how they handled adjusting to university life and how they navigated challenges they faced along the way.

“Project MyStory is a passion project that keeps growing and deepening with each semester. From an administrative view, it is a brilliant recruitment and retention intervention. From the student view, this project is so much more,” wrote Community and Public Service Program Director Sheri Stevens in a letter of support.

“What first touched me about Rachel were the tears of joy and pride that came to her eyes during the Project MyStory kickoff event, as she presented her students who had come so far in their personal and academic journeys,” wrote senior Naomi McPeters. “She does all this behind the scenes, with a humility that does not desire to be recognized, and for this reason alone, she is an ideal candidate for this award.”

Jason Cotugno

As assistant director of Undergraduate Student Services for the School of Business, Cotugno is known for being approachable, personable and understanding.

He works with Direct Admits to the school, helping organize professional development programs and activities. This fall, he co-taught a seminar for transfer students enrolled in the newest School of Business Living Learning Community, which resulted in him receiving an Outstanding Student Engagement Award.

In addition, he serves as staff advisor to Albany Business Leaders Emerging, which has a membership of more than 200 students, and to the School of Business Dean’s Leadership Council. Cotugno has been a coordinator for the Career Opportunities in Accounting Profession program, a campus residential program for minority high school students interested in business and accounting careers, and he has participated in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy.

“His office was a home away from home,” wrote alumna Katie Muller in a letter of support. “A place to have your career and life-vision validated and decisions accepted. I have never felt like one-of-the-many while working with Jason, but as special as I always felt while working with him, I know many other students felt just as special and cared about.”

Claudio Gomez

Claudio Gomez, a senior academic advisor and counselor in the Educational Opportunities Program, is known as a passionate and motivated individual who cares deeply about the students he counsels throughout their four years at the University.

“To say that students love him is an understatement,” wrote EOP Director Maritza Martinez. “It is rare to find his office empty as it is rare not to hear his voice offering his students much sought after guidance when they are here.”

As one former student said, “Not once did he give up on me. He believed in me until I was able to believe in myself.” Because of his dedication, this student is now pursuing a master’s degree.

For several years, Gomez has brought his First Year Experience class to the University Libraries for sessions on finding and obtaining scholarships. He guides students to a database with access to graduate study books for the GREs, LSATs, GMATs and MCATs.

Gomez uses social media to connect with students: He developed an EOP mobile app, and through his Facebook Project, assigned students to post photos on Facebook of themselves with professors, advisors, and key academics to foster their success.

One of his initiatives has been the Academic Recovery Program, which seeks to motivate students with GPAs lower than 2.25. Some of the resources provided by this program include: one-on-one meetings, study skills, library study hours, and tutoring and mentoring services.

Gomez also fine-tuned an early academic warning system, so that EOP counselors can intervene and get students back on track if they fall behind in the classroom.

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