Director of Undergraduate Affairs Aims to Engage Students

DAVIS, Calif.; September 16, 2016­–Nearly twenty years ago David Spight started his career as a residence hall director and since then has been dedicated to advancing undergraduate education. Today he’s the UC Davis College of Engineering Director of Undergraduate Affairs.

David Spight (photo credit: Sean Ayers)

David Spight, Director of Undergraduate Affairs
Photo: Sean Ayres/UC Davis

Previously Spight was the Assistant Dean for Academic Advising in the School of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the president of NACADA (National Academic Advising Association), a professional organization focused on enhancing academic advising with 13,000 members nationally and internationally.

Spight earned an M.A. in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a B.A. in history from Truman State University. He is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in higher education administration through the University of Alabama.

As a leader of the UC Davis College of Engineering advising team Spight is developing a foundation for best advising practices. He says a key to success for advisors is thinking beyond helping students pick classes.

“It’s a more holistic discussion where people are learning more about how what they do can affect students,” Spight says. “A big part of our message is how to get more people engaged.”

New role for first-year student advisor

Spight says one initiative underway is hiring a new advisor who will be dedicated to helping develop programs and support for first-year students. He says his office is working on improving retention rates of engineering students. The engineering curriculum is demanding and Spight says when students don’t have a support network it can lead to them dropping out of college. He says a dedicated first-year advisor will make it easier to develop a relationship with students from the very beginning of their engineering education.

“We know that if students get connected to their fellow peers, a staff member and they get connected to a faculty member they’re exponentially more likely to graduate.”

Spight says it requires a team effort to make sure students get their engineering degrees. With the help of Engineering Undergraduate Office advisors, program advisors and faculty he’s confident students will be successful.

Advice for new students

David Spight has been working in undergraduate affairs for nearly 20 years.

David Spight is helping shape best advising practices at UC Davis, nationally and internationally. Photo: Sean Ayres/UC Davis 

Spight has three simple tips for students as the fall quarter begins:

* Get engaged in your education

* Get help early

* Get a degree

Spight says he’s looking forward to the academic year getting underway.

“I’m very comfortable here, people are easy to work with and easy to communicate with,” he says. “I think what’s nice in the advising team – both in the program offices and in the Engineering Undergraduate Office – is that people care about what they do in terms of the students, they’re altruistic. It’s not about ‘me’, it’s about the students and what we’re trying to do as a college.”

– By Kelley Weiss