Assistant director helps student progress

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Janna Kern helps incoming freshmen schedule their first classes at Saginaw Valley, understand their degree audit and figure out what major suits them the best.

However, most people have no idea what she actually means to the students and University in general. In addition to excelling at her job as the assistant director of the Academic Advising Center, she has led the Foundation Scholars program for 15 years and played the piano for nearly 20 theater productions.

“Janna Kern in one word would be selfless,” Resident Assistant Haley Lake said. “She is someone that goes out of her way to say hello. I have made multiple appointments with her, and every one has been a positive experience. I believe some people just have a knack for making you feel cared for. That is one of Janna’s super powers for sure.”

Kern began her SVSU experience as an undergraduate. During that time, she worked in the Human Resources department of the university. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked for an engineering firm for four years.

“During my time outside of the university, I always wanted to come back,” Kern says. “I loved the atmosphere and the life. A friend mentioned an opening in the Advising Center, and I jumped at the opportunity.”

Kern is also a mentor and positive influence to all of the students she meets in her daily activities. In 2001, the Foundation Scholars program was created, and she was chosen to lead it. As the foundation’s head, she became a mentor and advisor to students and helped them with their graduation progress.

“She is the literal definition of amazing,” first-year Foundation Scholar student Milah Montle said. “She is so supportive and helpful all the time. Being a freshman, I always have plenty of questions to ask, and she always answers them right away. She is a genuine, kind and funny person. She is always there if you need her, and she has helped me out so much already this year.”

The Foundation Scholars program consists of roughly 60 first-year students who receive special funding to study abroad or conduct a community based service learning project within their second semester. The goal of the program is to produce SVSU’s next set of campus and community leaders.

This year, Kern is passing the reigns of the Foundation Scholar program to fellow Academic Advisor Eric Davis.

“I love the Foundations Scholars,” Kern said. “But after 15 years, I felt like I needed to move on and bring a new perspective into the program. I was offered more of a leadership role within the advising office, and I knew it was the right time to move on. Eric is a great person to take over the program, and I know it is in good hands with him.”

In her free time, Janna enjoys painting and photography, and her artwork can often be seen at the yearly faculty exhibits.

Kern has also contributed to the theater department. There, she met professor Richard Roberts, the current theater department chair, during her first year as an employee.

“Ric mentioned that he was looking for a piano player for the upcoming musical that the department was putting on,” Kern said. “I mentioned that I played and since have worked on nearly 20 musicals for the department.

“Janna Kern exemplifies everything great about SVSU,” Roberts said. “Her willingness to not only support our theatre department productions by volunteering hundreds of hours over the years, but also being our go to advisor for our theatre majors.”