This website is part of Undergraduate Advising & Learning Communities. We provide undergraduate students a variety of opportunities and services designed to facilitate the best academic experience possible. 609 Goodell Building, UMass Amherst.
Meet the Staff in Undergraduate Advising
Contact all staff through the Main Office, 613 Goodell
Vanessa Blais, Associate Director, Undergraduate Advising
EDUCATION: ABD and MA in German, UMass Amherst; BA in German, Wells College, NY, with minors in Music and Secondary Education.
LIKES BEST: Getting to know so many students and helping them figure out what they're passionate about.
ADVICE: Wait until at least mid-October before going home for the first time-- you need to start building a life here, plus going home too soon can make homesickness worse. "Get adjusted" by getting involved!
Tonya Blundon, Academic Advisor
EDUCATION: M.Ed. in Educational Policy, Research, and Administration, with a focus on policy studies, UMass Amherst; B.A. in English & Psychology, UMass Amherst.
LIKES BEST: Getting to know the students and watching them progress through experiences that will shape their futures at UMass and beyond. There is nothing like witnessing a student's ideas unfold right in front of you!
ADVICE: Be adventurous, both socially and academically! UMass and the Amherst area have lots to offer, so take advantage of your time here by exploring a class or two in a subject you've never heard of, attend an event at the Fine Arts Center, or spend an afternoon lounging in the downtown common.
Greg Boisseau, Academic Advisor
LIKES BEST: Helping students identify their strengths and interests while they navigate the university, develop academic goals, and (most importantly) empowering students to achieve their goals.
ADVICE: Make the most of your UMass experience, have fun, stay focused on the goal of earning a degree, follow your heart, and study what interests you! Make a professional connection with at least one professor every semester. Let us help you; see us early and see us often!
Chanti Chanthavong, Academic Advisor
EDUCATION: MA in Multicultural/ Bilingual Education, UMass Amherst; BA in Elementary Education, UMass Amherst.
LIKES BEST: Helping students to reach their personal and academic goals by guiding them through their individual learning process.
ADVICE: Procrastination is the worst enemy.
Ellen Correa, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD candidate in Communication, UMass Amherst; MA in Intercultural Relations, Antioch University MacGregor; BA in Intercultural Communication, California State University Monterey Bay.
LIKES BEST: Connecting one-on-one with students and doing what I can to reduce the stress of being a brand new college student.
ADVICE: Get to know your professors by going to their office hours. Find that professor who will change your life!
Colleen Kelley Coughlin, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD (in progress) in Geosciences, UMass Amherst; MS in Geosciences/Geography, UMass Amherst; BS in Physical Geography & BA in Anthropology, UMass Amherst, with a minor in Sociology/ Criminal Justice Certificate.
LIKES BEST: Finding such an amazing outlet for information that I have accrued over my undergraduate and graduate careers here at UMass. I really enjoy the fact that I can help students navigate through the numerous resources available and my personal background has such resonance with undergraduate students. I've been there and I can help!
ADVICE: Negotiate a balance between academics and your social life. Do not get frustrated with this process as there is a learning curve and one that takes some time to acclimate to. Change things up and step out of your comfort zone, at UMass there are so many various organizations, clubs and departments that you can get involved in. Faculty enjoy getting to know students!!
Alex Cuellar, Academic Advisor
EDUCATION: MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction), UMass Amherst; BA American and Latin American Studies and Literature, Hampshire College.
LIKES BEST: Being able to help students 'decode' the language and requirements of the University, and hopefully, relieve some of the stress that the 'code' can induce.
ADVICE: Be nice to any dept. staff! They can be just as helpful, if not more so at times, than anyone else here.
Julie de Chantal, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD Candidate in History; MA - History (2008) and BA - History (2005) from the Université de Montréal.
LIKES BEST: My favorite part of working with undergrads is helping them link their personal interests to academic paths that they may not have originally considered.
ADVICE: Explore every interest you have! Try everything at least once, and sample all that life has to offer. Go, discover, learn!
Brian Foley, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: Candidate for MFA in Poetry at UMass Amherst; B.F.A in Writing, Literature and Publishing from Emerson College (2004);
LIKES BEST: Talking to students one on one as individuals. I like asking the questions that will lead to thoughts not previously considered.
ADVICE: Be curious. Trust your instincts, but learn to also trust who helps. Like a scientist, you must admit to yourself there is no shame when you try and things don't happen as you expect. Trying is growth, never failure.
Tamatha Gaumnitz, Academic Advisor
EDUCATION: M.Ed. in Higher Education, UMass Amherst; B.A. in Women's Studies, Mount Holyoke College.
LIKES BEST: Connecting with students as individuals and working together to figure out what their next steps should be: whether it is finding the right courses, thinking about different majors, or pursuing other areas of interest like study abroad, internships, etc.
ADVICE: Go to class. And take your own notes.
Valerie Gramling, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD (in progress) in English, UMass Amherst; MA in Performance Studies, Northwestern University; BA in Theatre, George Washington University, with a minor in English Literature.
LIKES BEST: Teaching and learning from students; working with students as they discover and explore new passions and interests
ADVICE: Say "Yes!" to as many opportunities as you can - you never know where each one may lead. And keep challenging yourself.
Jessica Landis, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD (in progress) in English, UMass Amherst; MA in English, Boston College; BA in English with drama concentration, University of Delaware.
LIKES BEST: Hearing about students' diverse personal experiences, interests, and goals, and helping students to combine these factors to create a path that excites and satisfies them.
ADVICE: Consider every course and extracurricular activity an opportunity. Know that being a self-aware and engaged learner will help you to get the most fulfillment out of your time at UMass.
Seth Landman, Academic Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD in Literature and Creative Writing (ABD), University of Denver; MFA and BA (BDIC) in Creative Writing, UMass Amherst.
LIKES BEST: The amazing conversations that often come out of simple nuts-and-bolts questions about registration and scheduling. The things I learn about myself while I'm advising students.
ADVICE: Be more open-minded than you already are.
Sunny Lie, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD Candidate in Communication; MA in Global Communications from University of Southern California and London School of Economics and Political Science; BA in Communication and East Asian Studies from University of Southern California.
LIKES BEST: Seeing the light in students' eyes when we co-create a schedule that they're psyched about!
ADVICE: Be open to meeting as many different types of people as possible! Don't just 'stick with your own kind'. This is college, expand your personal network to include people from all around the country and around the world! Experience the exhilaration of connecting with someone new!
Susan Machala, Senior Academic Advisor
EDUCATION: Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Johns Hopkins University; B.A. in English from SUNY at Buffalo.
LIKES BEST: That "eureka moment" when I realize a student I've worked with has learned how to assume responsibility for his or her own education and take the next steps solo.
ADVICE: See an academic advisor early and often. Be sure to join an extracurricular activity that is meaningful to you as a way of meeting kindred spirits. Use the add/drop period to reevaluate and refine your academic schedule.
Undergraduate Advising Staff
Sheila Brennan, Associate Director, Undergraduate Advising
EDUCATION: Work toward PhD in Anthropology, UMass Amherst; B.A. Anthropology, Hartwick College.
LIKES BEST: Matching students with educational opportunities that expand learning beyond the UMass campus. I also really enjoy working with our many Peer Advisors who have gone on to wonderful careers, many in Higher Education.
ADVICE: Do not limit your educational experiences to only what you have heard through the grapevine. Investigate all opportunities because an internship, community service, taking courses at one of the Five Colleges or going for a semester to a state where you have never been on National Student Exchange contributes significantly to your educational and life experiences.
Joyce Grabon, Office Manager
EDUCATION: in progress
LIKES BEST: I find it rewarding to be able to help students and watch their progress as they move forward towards graduation.
ADVICE: Make sure you see an advisor a couple of times through out each semester. Advisors are one of the best contacts a student can have to help with courses, majors, and other resources available to them on campus.
A.J. LeBlanc, Administrative Assistant
EDUCATION: M.Ed in Secondary English Education, UMass Amherst; BA in English and Secondary Education, Marymount College.
LIKES BEST: Hearing about students' favorite classes. It's great to watch them get excited about the work they are doing.
ADVICE: Ask for help as soon as you need it. Putting off talking to a professor or TA is going to add to your stress and make catching up that much harder. Take advantage of the Learning Resource Center!
KD Maynard, Director of Academic Advising
EDUCATION: MA in Liberal Studies (focus: women's studies), Dartmouth College; BA in Linguistics with minor in Classics, Brown University.
LIKES BEST: Witnessing students discover themselves. I also learn something new from pretty much every student I meet.
ADVICE: ENGAGE! If you're passive about getting involved in your classes, going to office hours, meeting friends, joining student organizations, seeking assistance and support when you need it . . . you're only cheating yourself. Get involved!
Kregg Strehorn, Academic Dean
EDUCATION: PhD in Counseling Psychology, UMass Amherst; BA in Psychology, University of California Berkeley.
LIKES BEST: Watching some students discover that their personal interests and academic paths are not mutually exclusive.
ADVICE: Go to class, even when you don't want to. Learn and practice a system of time management. Go abroad as often as possible.
Gabriella Carmichael; '14, 613 Goodell, Academic Advising Link
CLASS/MAJOR: Junior, Dance and Anthropology double major
LIKES BEST: Getting to know the individual student and what they are nervous, hopeful, and excited for at UMass.
ADVICE: Go into everything with an open and curious mind.
Tricia Christie, '13, OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Senior, Major: Communication Disorders, Minor: Education
LIKES BEST: What I like best about working with undergraduate students in OASIS is that I can see myself in each student. I love to work with freshmen because two short years ago, that was me. Having such a great undergraduate experience has shown me how important it is to have someone to turn to who can help guide you during this important time.
ADVICE: Live day to day. If you did poorly on a test yesterday, learn from it and move on. If you dwell on any past or negative experience, you won't embrace the future as much as you should. Today, do not stress over the two papers and exams you have next week. Instead, plan everything day by day to reach your goal.
Tyler DeLisle, '13, 613 Goodell, Academic Advising Link, OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Senior, double major in Resource Economics and Economics, with a Psychology Minor
LIKES BEST: Helping the students find something new and exciting that they did not realize was offered here in the first place. Also, answering questions that will help them succeed here at UMass.
ADVICE: Try something new, you won't know if you don't like something unless you try it first. Trying something new can lead to new discoveries about yourself and help you succeed here. Also, talk to advisors, peers, professors - everyone is here to help you do well so take advantage of the resources here.
Sarah Garrity; '15; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Sophomore; Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies
LIKES BEST: Meeting new students and hearing how their experience of freshman year is going.
ADVICE: Take classes you're interested in to get a feel for what you might want to major in.
Paul Gels; '14; 613 Goodell, Academic Advising Link
CLASS, MAJOR: Junior; Majoring in Marketing, double minoring in English and Women's Studies.
LIKES BEST: Being able to see how my advising has directly impacted students and to really help them explore what they want to get out of their college education and how to go about doing it.
ADVICE: Try everything! There are so many great resources and opportunities on this campus. Not taking advantage of these opportunities is not taking full advantage of your college experience.
Suzanne Grenier; '15; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Sophomore; Undeclared
LIKES BEST: I like to help new students be less stressed and let them know that they have someone they can bring their questions to.
ADVICE: Don't worry if you're not taking classes that seem "important." By the end of the year you will know so much more about your interests and how to take things one step at a time.
Haley Harrington; '15; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Sophomore; Undeclared (Communication Disorders)
LIKES BEST: Working with first-year students and making a positive impact on their experience at UMass Amherst.
ADVICE: Be your own advocate! Make sure you meet with your advisor - they can lead you to great resources and future contacts. Try new things! Get involved and try to find your niche.
Joseph R. Lawrence; '15; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Sophomore; Physics
LIKES BEST: Answering their questions because they're often the same concerns I had from last year.
ADVICE: Your major isn't a huge decision - just make sure you're enjoying the classes it entails. If you enjoy the classes, you'll probably enjoy the career it brings you!
Ericka Lynch; '14; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Junior; Communication Disorders and Spanish
LIKES BEST: New students have a fresh perspective and can take advantage of all the opportunities campus has to offer.
ADVICE: Meet your professors at office hours so you can make a personal connection.
Nicholas O'Keefe; '15; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Sophomore; Kinesiology
LIKES BEST: Seeing new students come in knowing little and growing into being on-campus veterans.
ADVICE: Make sure you stay on top of your coursework so you don't get overwhelmed.
Liz Possee; '14; 613 Goodell, Academic Advising Link
CLASS, MAJOR: Junior; Environmental Design, Minoring in Studio Art, and Art History
LIKES BEST: Watching new students realize all of the opportunites UMass has to offer, and helping them take advantage of them.
ADVICE: Take some classes out of your comfort zone. College is an opportunity to try new things, and in trying these things, you might realize something about yourself that you didn't know before. Also, join an RSO! They are filled with interesting people from different majors, and it's great to meet people who share a common interest, but have a different background.
Jennie Rogers; '14; 613 Goodell, Academic Advising Link
CLASS, MAJOR: Junior; Psychology and Sociology
LIKES BEST: I enjoy helping students find what they love to study and providing them with some of the tools they need to succeed.
ADVICE: Always pursue your interests and strive for success. Try everything and anything that catches your eye because college is the time to take risks and find what you love.
Kayla Rybacki; '15; OASIS Peer TA
CLASS, MAJOR: Sophomore; Communication
LIKES BEST: Sharing my personal experiences with new students and helping them navigate through college.
ADVICE: Don't freak out! Don't get overwhelmed because even the people who say they have their whole life planned out really don't.