Purdue Profile: Alisha Kuckartz

August 31, 2010

Alisha Kuckartz, academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts, leads practice for  the Purdue Bands Goldusters and Twirlers in her West Lafayette studio. Kuckartz is director for both groups. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

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Alisha Kuckartz believes in enthusiasm, positivity and always wearing a smile as she advises and coaches students, co-owns a dance studio and cares for three young children.

Earlier this year Kuckartz, an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and director of the Purdue Bands Goldusters and Twirlers, was recognized as one of Tippecanoe County's Top 10 under 40 for her dedication to professional development, leadership and community service.

How do you feel about being named one of the area's top young professionals?

I was so honored when they announced my name. I had no idea I had been chosen. It just reassured me that what I'm doing is valuable and makes a difference to people, especially young people. To me, teaching and inspiring a young person is worth more than thousands of dollars, and I have many opportunities to do that with all my different roles.

What do you do at Purdue and how did you end up here?

I grew up around this area and started attending games when I was 6. I don't remember this, but my parents say the first thing that caught my attention at games were the twirlers, cheerleaders and dancers, which is funny since I coach the Goldusters and twirlers now.

I studied English and Spanish education here. My freshman year I twirled on the twirling line. Then I spent three years as the Girl in Black and was the Golden Girl my last year. It was a goal for me to twirl at Purdue, so that was a highlight of my undergrad career.

I’ve been an academic advisor since 2001, and I started coaching in 1999.

What do you do as a coach?

When it comes to coaching the girls, I target more than just dance and twirling skills. I give the girls the opportunity to read "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." The book helps them find creative ways to solve problems and set goals for their time post-Purdue.

We talk about outreach and giving back to the community. We focus on leadership and communication skills. They are very involved in the decision-making and take a lot of ownership in everything the team does. Each girl uses her niche to contribute to the team.

Is there an overlap between your two positions at Purdue?

I think my personality style is similar with both groups of students I work with. I believe in creating a very non-intimidating environment for my students. I want them to know I have the time and care about them as individuals.

What are your favorite parts of advising and coaching?

As far as advising goes, I enjoy being able to work one-on-one with students and help them through times when they might feel lost or desperate. I love when students leave my office feeling lifted.

With coaching, it's not so much about watching the girls become better dancers or twirlers. It's about seeing them become better people. I get to see them transition into professionals and become better citizens who are active in their communities.

Should I even ask about hobbies?

I love spending time with my family whenever possible and also enjoy boating in the summertime. There’s not much time for anything else, but I love everything I do, so I've never felt like there is a void in my life.

How do you maintain your energy and positivity with such a busy schedule?

If there are times when I feel overwhelmed, I just think about how blessed I am to have three children and a supportive husband, to own my own business, to coach at a Big Ten university, to work with students and to do what I'm passionate about.

I don’t think of it as having four jobs. They’re my four joys.