I Spy Someone making a difference.
Amanda Darden: Advising more than her studentsby Brian Druckenmiller
Amanda Darden, student services coordinator and academic adviser, teaches all of her advisees, Horry County youth and her three children a valuable lesson daily: Any goal is attainable through hard work and dedication.
Darden came to Coastal Carolina University for the Spring 2011 semester in a part-time role in the Spadoni College of Education. Here, she is responsible for advising 475 pre-majors who are looking to get into the Professional Program Teaching Education (PPTE). She aids sophomores and transfer students with choosing the right discipline for their potential careers in education as Coastal offers undergraduate degrees in five areas of education—early childhood, elementary, middle level, physical education and special education.
“Some students don’t realize all the areas within education,” says Darden. “My job is to steer them in a direction that best suits their individual potential.”
Several initiatives put in place by Darden have enhanced the quality of advisement in the Spadoni College. The implementation of group advising sessions, in addition to individual advising, gives students a clearer understanding of their goals before an individual session. A question-and-answer session scheduled at least once a semester allows students to ask general questions. A new advising blog posted on the Spadoni College’s website provides advising information and updates in an interactive medium. All three of these ideas improve communication between students and their professors and advisers.
“She does exceptionally well in planning advising sessions and translating her ideas into plans that are relevant and meaningful,” said Edward Jadallah, dean of Spadoni College. “This, combined with her innate human relation skills, makes Amanda an exemplary model of an effective and informative student adviser.”
Also, Darden is active in recruitment. She educates potential students on what Coastal Carolina offers students interested in a teaching career.
"Recruitment and retention are our top priorities,” says Darden.
Darden found a passion for advising while at Radford University in Virginia. A Virginia native, she earned both her bachelor’s degree in physical education as well as her master’s degree in education-curriculum and instruction from Radford. Immediately following graduation, she was hired by the university as the advising coordinator for the visual and performing arts department. Two years later, in 2002, her husband, Gibson Darden, accepted a position at CCU, and the Dardens moved to Horry County.
Initially, Darden quit her advising career to stay at home with her first child. Now the Dardens have three children: Gus, 6, Fisher, 8, and Maggie, 9. Once all of her children were old enough to attend Trinity Christian School, she was able to return to work on a part-time basis.
Coastal Carolina has been a great fit for Darden thus far. Not only is her favorite color teal, but she appreciates how welcome her children are when they are out of school and on campus with their parents. The Darden children are known around Coastal Carolina as “gym rats” and “Kearns Lawn rats” as they are found frequently playing at those two locations when they come to work with their mother. With Darden’s background in physical education, she prefers these tags over “lab rats.” The kids do more than romp around campus. Maggie is in her third year of surfing instruction, and Fisher is a star on his basketball team, helping Gus out on the court along the way.
"Her children are wonderful," said Patricia Piver, interim associate dean and director of clinical experiences and student services. "They are bright and energized, and very well-mannered. I love seeing them on campus."
Darden has also put her physical education background to work in her community. For the past six years, she has coached basketball, soccer and tee ball for Horry County Parks and Recreation youth leagues. She also assists a local day care by leading physical education classes for preschool students.
Darden stresses the importance of having a passion for something and never losing sight of it. Whether donning her parenting, advising or coaching cap, she promotes the message discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers.” Gladwell believes the best way to master a subject is to work at it for at least 10,000 hours. Gus, Fisher and Maggie will not reach their full potential and her advisees will not achieve their professional goals without putting forth a strong effort.
“My advisees need to be in a forward-thinking mindset,” says Darden. “They should know what they want, and go for it. If I can help them find what that want is, then I have done my job.”