The Advising First Center for Academic Guidance was developed to offer an additional layer of support to students who may be experiencing barriers to their success at Florida State University. Academic Guides are seasoned higher education professionals dedicated to the retention, persistence, and graduation of undergraduate students. Students invited to work with an Academic Guide will receive one-on-one assistance in identifying roadblocks, developing an action plan, and connecting with the FSU community and resources to strengthen their journey toward graduation.
This unique center was recently featured in Inside Higher Ed.
Academic Guides work with various campus partners to create a success team catered to each student’s needs.
Dana Auvil Assistant Director
Dana holds an Ed.S. in Higher Education Administration, M.S. in Integrated Marketing and Management Communication, and a B.S. in Communication, all earned through Florida State University. She joins the Center with more than 20 years' experience at the University having advised prospective medical students on creating a competitive application, graduate students on requirements for writing a thesis or dissertation, and community college students on requirements to transfer.
As a first-generation college student, Dana has a strong focus on the obstacles students face when seeking admission to, and then graduation from, institutions of higher education. Outside of work, she volunteers in the Tallahassee community through the Junior League of Tallahassee and serves on the Board of Directors for the local nonprofit, Ability 1st. In her free time, Dana enjoys being with her family and close friends, all things sports – especially attending her children’s softball and lacrosse games - and catching up on bingeworthy television.
Favorite Quote: “It is our choices, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” - Albus Dumbledore
Cara Axelrod Senior Academic Guide
Cara received her B.S. in Psychology from Florida State University, where her research focused on the ways college students’ attitudes toward their education can impact their academic success.
Cara enjoys working with college students because she loves getting to learn alongside individuals who truly care about the world around them. Every day she comes to work, she is grateful to get to see the world through their curious, empathetic, and socially engaged eyes. Because she believes wholeheartedly in the opportunities for holistic development higher education provides, she finds tremendous joy in helping students navigate this journey. Cara spends her free time listening to audiobooks and spending time with her rescue dog, Matata.
Favorite Quote: “There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.” – Willy Wonka
Sarah Lovins Bacani Senior Academic Guide
Sarah graduated from Florida State University in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in Geology. She has presented at both the regional and the National level for the National Academic Advising Association and she is currently working on her Master of Social Work here at FSU. Sarah had such a great experience with advising here at FSU and she loves working with college students to reflect that care and attention she received. Sarah enjoys coming to work every day and creating a safe space where the students can thrive and take ownership of their time here.
Favorite Quote: “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman
LaToya Lee Senior Academic Guide
LaToya earned her B.A. degree in Psychology from Florida Atlantic University, and M.A. in Educational Leadership from Florida Gulf Coast University. Prior to her current role as a Senior Academic Guide, LaToya worked as an academic advisor for more than 15 years at Florida public universities. She is passionate about helping students make informed decisions pertaining to their goals and supporting them as they navigate their unique college experiences. In her free time, LaToya enjoys spending time with her family and friends, watching sunsets at the beach, reading, and practicing mindfulness through meditation and yoga.
Favorite Quote: “For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” – Amanda Gorman
Lisa Mitchell Senior Academic Guide
Lisa joins the Center for Academic Guidance with experience in both teaching (15+ years) and advising (3+ years). She earned both her B.A. in Theatre and her M.S. in English Education at Florida State University. Lisa finds great satisfaction in encouraging and guiding college students throughout their educational journey. She strives to help students recognize their value and embrace being the author of their own story.
Favorite Quote: “What we know matters, but who we are matters more.” – Brené Brown
Bernard Shuford Senior Academic Guide
Bernard comes to the Center for Academic Guidance with over 15 years of experience in higher education and academic support services. He earned his B.S. in Journalism/Public Relations from Florida A&M University, and a M.S. in Sport Management from Florida State University. Bernard’s favorite aspect of advising is the teaching component: helping students develop and implement critical thinking and problem-solving skills. During his time with Advising First, Bernard has instructed SLS 1122: Strategies for Academic Success and SLS 3140: Academic Success Strategies for Transfer Students. As a Senior Academic Guide, Bernard’s goals are to help students identify the biggest barrier to positive change, and exercise dedication to achieve their educational goals.
Favorite Quote: “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the process that lead to those results.” – James Clear
Melissa Tillery Senior Academic Guide
Melissa is a graduate of FSU’s College of Social Work and is currently pursuing a master's degree in Public Health Education, Promotion and Behavior from the University of West Florida. As a graduate student, Melissa assisted with a Neighborhood Development & Advocacy Project for the Greater Bond Community in 2021. During her time with Advising First, she has served as a Teaching Assistant for SLS1203: Introduction to Academic Major Exploration and as a Campus and Community Engagement Coordinator. Melissa loves connecting with students through sharing stories and values empowering them to recognize and develop their full potential.
Favorite Quote: "You are worthy of the time it takes to do the things that heal your heart" - Morgan Harper Nichol