College of Science

Building relationships is key for winner of 2020 Frank A. Burtner Award for Excellence in Advising



Joey Thames’s supervisor says his knack for building relationships with students helps make him a successful adviser. Thames, student services manager in the genetics and biochemistry department in the College of Science, was awarded the 2020 Frank A. Burtner Award for Excellence in Advising.

“Joey is currently managing over 300 advisees and has not only learned most of the students’ names but has also established rapport with each of them,” Alison Starr-Moss, senior lecturer and undergraduate student adviser, said. “Our offices are next to each other, and I hear students stop by on a daily basis with no appointment for the sole purpose of visiting between classes. The advising continuity in following a cohort of students for four years is only successful when supported by a trusting relationship, and Joey has exceeded in this role.”

Thames is co-instructor with Starr-Moss of a professional development course for genetics and biochemistry majors. They developed it in 2018 in a collaboration with the Center for Career and Professional Development and are in the fifth offering of the course.

“Where I tend to provide facts and data because of my science training, Joey can weave a story and provide vivid context to the topic in a way that I envy,” Starr-Moss said. “In many ways, we serve as the play-by-play and color commentators narrating a game. Joey has an innate ability to pull disparate topics together and connect common threads to fully illustrate a point. The class is stronger because of his contributions and would not be as effective without him.”

Photo of Joey Thames
Joey Thames

Thames accepted the award with “great humility.”

“My work is simply a reflection of my students, to whom I serve,” he said. “The honor is theirs. There is no other reason I exist at Clemson, and I celebrate this with them.”

The award was established in honor of Frank Alan Burtner, who served Clemson University from 1939 to 1984 as a professor of sociology, director of the pre-professional health program and advisor to many student organizations. It is presented to an adviser who excels in developing students in the areas of leadership, devotion to duty and service.

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