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UVa-Wise Student Support Services marks 40th anniversary with success stories

Vice-President Joe Biden, Stephanie Toliver Osborne and Jill Biden
Vice-President Joe Biden,
Stephanie Toliver Osborne
and Jill Biden

Stephanie Tolliver Osborne, a 2004 graduate of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, has been awarded the R.J. Reynolds Excellence in Teaching Award for her professionalism and dedication to students.

She credits UVa-Wise Student Support Services, celebrating its 40th anniversary, for her success as an educator.

Osborne prides herself on taking a special interest in each student by creating personal and supportive relationships similar to what she experienced as a tutor with Student Support Services.

“Student Support Services helped me develop autonomy,” she said. “As a first-generation college student, the program was instrumental in helping me learn about academic culture and goal-setting. Because of the great relationships I built with my mentors, I learned how to make informed choices about my education and how to look for opportunities for enrichment.”

An English instructor and writing center director for Gaston College in N.C., she was the first faculty member from Gaston to receive the award. She was named 2010-11 Instructor of the Year at Gaston and was subsequently nominated to represent the college in the RJ Reynolds Excellence in Teaching Award.

“I feel that Student Support Services gave me the foundation I needed to become a good teacher,” she said. “From the example set by the program, I was exposed to a holistic model of learning that included so much more than academic success. Learning tips for managing time and schedules, financial planning, coping with stress, and communicating with others not only helped me continue to be a successful student, but also established good patterns for my professional career.”

She was selected from 58 candidates, each representing one of the community colleges in the state. She received $8,000, a plaque and the opportunity to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife. Gaston College also received a $2,000 scholarship donation.

Osborne oversaw development of Gaston College’s writing center and initiated the formation of Weavings & Unravelings: A Literary Review, titled in honor of the textile production history of Gaston and Lincoln counties to publish creative student and employee content.

“I have a deep respect for educators and advisors and what they do--for me, TRiO provided the structure and support system I needed to make me a successful individual not only in the academic field, but in life. The program served as a bridge between higher education and the "real world"--and it made me ready for both.”