Undergraduate Academic Affairs

October 3, 2017

Adiam Tesfay named director of Academic Support Programs

Undergraduate Academic Affairs

Headshot of Adiam TesfayUndergraduate Academic Affairs is thrilled to announce Adiam Tesfay as the new director of Academic Support Programs (ASP). Tesfay joined Academic Support Programs in 2011, first serving as assistant director, then associate director and most recently interim director. Over the course of her tenure, she has actively worked to help students navigate the transition to the University of Washington and become their most successful selves.

Tesfay first discovered her passion for helping students adjust to college while an undergraduate resident assistant at Northern Arizona University (NAU). This experience motivated Tesfay to stay at NAU and earn her Masters in Educational Counseling.  At NAU, Tesfay joined TRiO Student Support Services and went on to advise first-generation, low-income and disabled students on personal, academic and financial issues. Her programming helped the students considered most at risk of not graduating to graduate at a higher rate than the rest of the university. Tesfay brings this same dedication and tenacity to her work at the UW.

“Adiam is a champion of students across the University from all backgrounds, particularly of those students with the greatest needs,” says Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Ed Taylor. “She is unwavering in her commitment to the success of all students, and unwavering in her belief that all students can be successful.” Tesfay believes that community is key to students’ success and holds this as a guiding principle in her work. She is dedicated to increasing educational equity and access, and works with both professional and student staff on these issues.

“I’m really proud that ASP’s staff is able to have open and honest conversations about equity. This is really hard to tackle at the university level. We work together to find new, innovative ways to support our students,” explains Tesfay. To accomplish this, Tesfay recently led her team through a strategic plan to evaluate their effectiveness and find new opportunities to reach more students. As a result of this work, Tesfay and her team will be offering additional coaching sessions, workshops on topics including “what to do if you fail a test” and additional events for students to build communities with each other.

We are teaching students what to do when what they’ve traditionally done no longer works. We want them to talk to each other; to share with their friends that they are struggling. But no one does because they are embarrassed. We want to normalize failure. Failure can still be great. It gives you a sense of discovery. — Adiam Tesfay

Through the work of ASP, Tesfay strives to teach students to be their own best advocate. She maintains ASP’s programs are so effective because the students open up to their peers in ways that they don’t with her and the other staff members. To ensure this system works for everyone, Tesfay is committed to training both her student and professional staff and creating an open, collaborative environment for her team.

Academic Support Programs currently runs the Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE) and academic achievement courses. Both rely on peer-to-peer support. CLUE offers late-night drop-in tutoring, discussion sessions, a writing center and test prep sessions, fielding over 35,000 student visits each year. The 120 undergraduate and graduate student tutors are trained to teach students how to figure out difficult problems, helping develop confidence and creative thinking.

The academic achievement courses are specifically geared toward freshman, sophomore and transfer students who are struggling with their transitions to UW. Every student in these courses is paired with a tutor-mentor with whom they meet three hours a week. Both the classes and tutoring sessions focus on note-taking, essay writing, time-management and other study skills. Tesfay explains, “The work we are doing is these classes is transformative for these students. Helping change a student’s trajectory at the UW will impact the student and their family for the rest of their life.”

Learn more about Academic Support Programs.