Staff Spotlight: Alan Santos
“People look forward to the weekends because they don’t have to work, but I actually look forward to Mondays,” says Alan “Al” Santos, director of student services in the Clark School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE).
Student advising at a school the size of the University of Maryland is no small task, but Santos makes it his life’s work. Honored with numerous advising awards from both the University System of Maryland and the Clark School, he is a recognized star in his department and an important figure to his students.
Santos stands out because of his unwavering focus on his students. He stresses the importance of giving undivided attention to those who enter his office, avoiding distractions and taking time to carefully listen. He also makes himself available at all times, staying reachable by phone or email at any hour of any day.
In fact, Santos is so popular among the Clark School student body that he receives advising calls from other engineering undergrads outside of CEE.
Santos’s advising is so effective because he not only puts himself in his students’ positions, but he keeps a positive attitude, hoping that his students will learn from his example.
“A positive attitude goes a long way,” he says. “Students are going to fail along the way to success, and that’s okay. It makes us stronger and more resilient, and it helps us grow. Keeping a positive attitude about it is so important.”
Dedicated to his students, Santos is willing to lend a hand where he can. Be it cups of soup or an hour of time, he feels grateful for the chance to give support.
“I feel so privileged to be in my position, and it’s a way for me to give back,” explains Santos.
Involved on campus, Santos advises student groups, photographs countless UMD events, and leads Terp Fit Crew, an exercise group of staff and students that meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the school year. Santos pushes his students to be physically active, understanding that a healthy body helps lead to a much healthier mind.
With mental health a growing concern for college students in intense academic programs, Santos takes great care checking on the well-being of those he advises, talking with them for hours, walking them to a counselor’s office, or helping them find a passion to invest in outside of class.
With over two decades at UMD under his belt, Santos is not looking to change his position. “I’ve been here 21 years, and I still have a lot to learn. Every day is different!” he says. “But 10 years from now, this is exactly where I want to be.”
“I’m very fortunate,” he added. “I’ve really won the lotto. I’m able to get up in the morning and enjoy the day. I get to make an impact and that’s something to look forward to.”
August 24, 2017