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
Greg Blackburn, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD (in progress) in Communication, UMass Amherst; MA in Communication, University of Arkansas; BA in Communication, UMass Amherst, with a certificate in Film.
LIKES BEST: Introducing students to the broad range of academic options that UMass offers, and seeing students get excited when they discover a new class or a whole new area of study to explore.
ADVICE: No matter what your interest is, there is a club, team, or RSO on campus will represent it. Joining a group like this can lead you to a new peer group of like-minded students, and can really help UMass feel like a home.
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!
Leslie Bradshaw, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD (in progress) and MA in English, UMass Amherst; BA in English, Gonzaga University, with a minor in History.
LIKES BEST: Collaborating with students to connect their interests to classes and majors. These connections often become clear through conversation!
ADVICE: Talk about what you're learning in class with friends and classmates outside of class! Ask questions, debate with others, and relate the material to what you're learning in other classes. These conversations will help you apply your knowledge, and they lead to the kind of deep learning that sticks with you.
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.
Julieta Chaparro-Buitrago, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD (in progress) Anthropology, UMass Amherst; MA Sociology, New School University; BA Anthropology, with minor in History, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia).
LIKES BEST: Being able to talk to different kinds of people and being able to find a common ground for talking about interests and expectations. I enjoy guiding people to explore their own possibilities and capabilities that would lead them to make a choice about what they want to do with their lives.
ADVICE: Be open, explore, and give yourself a chance to see the world with different eyes. You will be surprised with all the new things you can find and learn from. Enrich yourself from those experiences!
Ali Cook, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: M.A. (In Progress) Art History, UMass, Postbac in jewelry making at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, B.A. in Economics, Smith College.
LIKES BEST: Our students! Although, working collaboratively as part of such an amazing team of advisors is a very close second.
ADVICE: Beginning to narrow your focus at a school the size of UMass is daunting- if your desired major exists, we have it! If it doesn't, you can make it yourself through BDIC. Not knowing what you want when you arrive here is completely natural; just allow your curiosity to take the lead. Knowing what you don't want is equally as important as knowing what you do want. Enroll in classes that interest you, ultimately your passions (not a piece of paper) will provide the skills you need beyond the university walls. Take your first few semesters to explore and allow the accidents to happen; you might be surprised to find where they lead.
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!!
Allie Jones, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: M.Ed in Higher Education (in progress), B.B.A. Management and Sociology, UMass Amherst
LIKES: Asking questions that make people think outside the box. I enjoy having conversations that generate ideas and and excitement about a student's academic path.
ADVICE: Be curious and aware. Be confident! Keep an open mind - try new things. Just ask.
Kevina King, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: PhD student in German and Scandinavian Studies, UMass Amherst; MA in German and Scandinavian Studies, UMass Amherst; BA in Psychology and German, University of Nevada Las Vegas.
LIKES BEST: Witnessing when students find their own autonomy.
ADVICE: Be flexible and proactive. Know that it is okay to change your mind!
Ruth Lahti, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: Ph.D. candidate in English, UMass Amherst; M.A. in English at UMass Amherst; B.A. in English with a minor in history at James Madison University
LIKES BEST: Working with students to transform their fear and anxiety about college into excitement and confidence about clear college goals.
ADVICE: Find a mentor at UMass who inspires you! Talk to professors in your areas of interest about your own goals and dreams - professors all hold office hours that are just for you.
John Ramos, Graduate Advisor
EDUCATION: M.Ed. (in progress) in School Counseling, UMass Amherst. B.A. in African-American Studies, Morehouse College.
LIKES BEST: Connecting with students individually to build a relationship of trust. This enables me to be a dependable and honest resource throughout their experience at UMass.
ADVICE: Network! Develop as many positive and meaning relationships as possible. Social and professional relationships are the keys to long term success and happiness.
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.
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.
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.
Peer Advisors **Please bear with us as we update with our new staff! **
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.
Amanda Chapman, '16; OASIS Peer TA
LIKES BEST: I'm excited to have freshmen look up to me and develop relationships with them.
ADVICE: Take advantage of office hours and if you're too scared to get in contact with a professor, never hesitate to email a TA. Also, make friends in your classes and use peers as resources, too.
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.
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.
Menty Kebede, '16; OASIS Peer TA
MAJOR: Legal Studies and Political Science double major and Arabic minor.
LIKES BEST: Watching them grow more comfortable as UMass becomes their home and helping them find themselves and what they love.
ADVICE: Really put yourself out there and explore the many opportunities that UMass has to offer.
Joseph R. Lawrence; '15; OASIS Peer TA; 613 Goodell, Academic Advising Link
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!
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.
Nicole Proulx, '16; OASIS Peer TA
MAJOR: Kinesiology, minor in psychology.
LIKES BEST: What I like most about working with first year students is being able to help them make the most out of UMass and have an amazing first year as I did!
ADVICE: Get involved and make connections - they are the key to your future.
Sierra Rittue; '16; 613 front office
MAJOR: Astronomy and Biology double major
LIKES BEST: Helping students pursue their interests and showing them resources they can use to succeed.
ADVICE: Don't put so much focus on your major. Remember, major doesn't equal career! Just major in something you like and are good at, and go from there.
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.