Sarah Kitten in officeSarah Kitten, academic advising coordinator, works hard behind the scenes as a guiding hand for students in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. She helps students at every level, from first-year undergraduates to students about to head out as professionals. 

Students and faculty praise her dedication to students and the department, and her presence has not gone unnoticed. Over the ten years she has worked in the department, she has been recognized with the President’s Outstanding Staff Award, the Texas Exes James W. Vick Award for Academic Advising, the Cockrell School Staff Excellence Award and the ASE/EM Department Staff Excellence Award. 

As academic advising coordinator, Kitten does a lot more than simply offer advice about what classes to take. She also administers course scheduling, assists with curriculum development, spearheads student recruitment and retention, facilitates scholarships, supervises peer advisors and oversees a robust student advisory council.

“It’s so rewarding to see the immense change in a student over four years—they enter the school as young adults, and you get to see the transformation they make into ambitious, driven professionals. The fact that I get to have a hand in that is just so cool.”

And students have clearly benefited from her efforts. Throughout Kitten’s office are letters, photos, artwork and knick-knacks from former students. One particular photo of an aircraft that refuels other planes mid-flight was given to her by a student saying it reminded her of Kitten always being there to cheer her on during difficult days as an undergraduate.

Kitten also has assisted with campaigns to increase female and underrepresented minority retention rates and, as a result, has seen the department’s female retention rate double in the past five years. 

“The most important thing to me is making certain that we’re creating a welcoming environment that allows all students to get the absolute most out of their time here and have access to what they need to be successful people and engineers,” Kitten said.