I Spy Someone making a difference.
I Spy: Penny Bell, Wall’s academic advising advocateby Alexandra Morris
When Penny Bell walks into her office at the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration every morning, she says thanks. During the 16 years she has been employed at Coastal Carolina University, she has realized: “I do this for the students, my coworkers and this school.”
When freshmen in the business college start in the program, they are assigned to an academic adviser for their four years at CCU. And one of these advisers may be Bell.
“I see my job as being an advocate and helping students get and stay on the right track,” she says. “It is my duty to make sure they graduate in four years.”
Co-workers Karen Arnie and Mindy Swickrath’s offices are beside Bell’s and that’s how they noticed her special touch with people.
“She’s the best,” says Arnie. “For us, it’s been a whole year working here, and it wouldn’t have been as ‘doable’ without Penny. She genuinely wants to help us all the time.”
Bell has helped fellow advisers Arnie and Swickrath get situated in their new jobs, all while advising 360 students.
“Advising is a huge part of a student’s success,” says Bell. “I’m with a student from when they first start college until they graduate. And I get to know them, too, along the way.”
Bell has been an adviser since 2007 but has held other positions while at CCU. She began as an administrative assistant in the Registrar’s Office and then later became a Marketing, Management and Business Law faculty member.
“Teaching is in my future, too,” says Bell. “I’m working toward my master’s in business here at CCU, and eventually that will allow me to be in the classroom. The process has reminded me that I really love learning.”
By December, Bell will be halfway finished with her degree. She believes that her new degree will enable her to help her students even more.
Kale Harrelson is one of Bell’s current finance advisees who says that walking into Bell's office always results in relief. “Mrs. Bell is caring, and I wish everyone had her attitude,” says Harrelson. “Even if she isn’t accessible the moment I need her, she will direct me to others who can help me.”
Bell’s supervisor, Frances Richmond, says that Bell is one who improves student experience because she is knowledgeable and friendly. She states that students are “in good hands” when with Bell.
Kelsey Murr is a graduate student who has worked with Bell in the past. “Mrs. Bell makes it easier to pick my classes, and she knows what she’s doing,” says Murr. “She’s an all-around great adviser who has helped me have a positive experience here at CCU.”
Outside the office, Bell lives on a farm in Loris with her husband Ed, her son Lee, 15, her daughter Lindsay, 13, and her pony Prissy. Bell's husband works in the Department of Public Works for Horry County.
When Bell talks about the big picture, she says, “The most rewarding part is seeing them graduate. Some students really struggle, and then I watch them make it.”
“I Spy” is an employee recognition program of the Office of Training and Development whereby staff and faculty nominate someone for extraordinary service.