“Because of Kenny’s hard work and countless hours of advising, I am on track to graduate from Western Illinois University in 2015, a goal that I once assumed was unachievable. Kenny took the time to fully understand my academic and professional goals and aligned those interests with a course schedule that reflected them.” — Bradley Heitz, Senior, Bachelor of Arts in General Studies Program
Kenny Wheeler is one of the many Council of Administrative Personnel (COAP) employees at Western integral to the success of WIU students and to the University overall. In his role as an academic advisor, he is one of the front-line individuals who serves students in the all-important task of developing their course schedules (every semester that they are at WIU) so they can stay on track to graduate.
“[Kenny] is regularly nominated by students for the award, according to Michele Aurand, academic honors advisor for the WIU Centennial Honors College. However, for February, he was nominated by Bradley Heitz (Rock Island, IL),” noted the release about Kenny’s award.
Kenny agreed to be featured in the April installment of the COAP Employee Spotlight and was kind enough to answers a few questions about his work at Western and what he enjoys outside of his job.
Q. Tell me a bit about your background… How did you wind up working at WIU?
Kenny: I’ve been working in higher ed and student affairs for about 13 years now. I worked in admissions previously at two small private institutions, focusing on recruiting under-represented students and increasing ethnic and racial diversity on campus. I was fortunate enough to attend graduate school with two classmates (and now colleagues) here at Western that gently pulled me into the WIU family. I am now in my seventh year at WIU, and I continue to find the challenges and successes I’ve had along the way to be rewarding and motivating.
Q. What does a typical day at work at Western look like for you?
Kenny: Returning e-mails, phone calls, meeting with students, setting up appointments, and becoming involved in the evolution of the WIU-Quad Cities’ campus continues to take up much of my time from day to day. I always find it important to me to head home for lunch and get away from the office to just take a moment to breath. And if I can’t get away, I’ll usually take a couple of moments a day to get around and talk to folks so I’m not staring at my computer all day. :)
Q. What are some of the best aspects of your job?
Kenny: One of the best aspects of this job is helping students meet their academic and professional goals, but I also enjoy getting to know them on a personal level. It is so important in education to develop a personal connection with students, to have empathy and understanding of their experiences, and to treat them with respect no matter who they are. If I can do those things, the rest of my job seems to fall into place and students can feel comfortable meeting with me as their advisor.
Q. What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?
Kenny: One of the more challenging aspects of my job is knowing that we can’t meet all the needs of every student, and you have to learn to be okay with that. You just have to provide as much information, resource, and opportunity that you can, and make a reasonable effort to be of as much assistance as possible.
Q. Tell me a little about your favorite activities outside of your job (e.g., hobbies, family or friend activities, etc.)
Kenny: My two favorite activities outside of my job is spending time with my family and coaching track and field. My wife and my two daughters are some of the greatest blessings God has granted me with, and coming home to see them after work is the most rewarding part of the day…especially after a tough day in the office.
I am also in my 15th year of coaching track and field at the college and high school levels, and am now in my eighth season coaching girls track and field at a large high school in Iowa. I love motivating the young individuals I coach in a sport that I participated in through college and has been a part of my life since grade school.
Q. What is your favorite quote?
Kenny: I have a lot of favorite quotes that I use year to year as a coach, but the quote I really admire speaks to our strength, diversity, our uniqueness as individuals, and community:
“Be strong enough to stand alone. Be yourself enough to stand apart. But be wise enough to stand together when the time comes.” — Mark Arends