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Marlena Lester

Director of Advising
Marlena McGlothlin Lester
Virginia Tech
Mail Code: 0230


Marlena is the Director of Advising for the College of Engineering and is responsible for the operational leadership for developing, implementing, and evaluating programming to support undergraduate engineering students. This includes oversight of new student orientation, welcome week, and major and career exploration at the college level. The position will strategically support advising activities in the College of Engineering, including identifying opportunities for development; acting as a liaison with university advising initiatives; coordinating with the COE Director of Enrollment Management to design student support actions to enhance retention, time to graduation, and major selection; and advocating for advising.


Marlena received her PhD from Virginia Tech in 2019 with her research focused on Understanding Academic Advising at Institutions with a First-Year Engineering Program. She received her MS in Corporate and Professional Communication in 2005 and BS in Communication with a Concentration in Public Relations in 2003 both from Radford University. In addition, Marlena earned an AA&S in Education and General Studies along with a Certification in Radio/TV Broadcast Production from Southwest Virginia Community College in 2002.  


Marlena began her professional career at Radford University in 2005 where she served as an Academic Advisor in the College of Business and Economics. She moved to Virginia Tech in 2008 beginning as an academic advisor in University Studies. In 2010, she moved to the Department of Engineering Education as one of their first professional undergraduate academic and career advisors and advanced to the founding Director of Advising. In 2021, she was promoted to the College of Engineering Academic Affairs as the inaugural college level Director of Advising. 

Marlena strives to transform the student and advisor experience through communication, collaboration, and consistency. She has presented her innovative initiatives regionally, nationally, and internationally. In 2017 she received the NACADA Outstanding Advising Administrator Award and was nominated by her advising team for the Hokie Wellness Supervisor Spotlight award. Marlena received the Hokie Highlights Award for her outstanding service keeping Virginia Tech operations moving forward throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and was nominated for the Virginia Network for Women in Higher Education-Outstanding Woman Leader Award by her colleagues.