Staff Who Care: Recognizing Stetsons Humble Heroes


Carlye Mahler and Carmen Cruz

A smile, a hug, a donut, an encouraging word. Simple acts such as these have the power to uplift one’s spirits amidst even the darkest of times. Stetson University was not left unscathed from the consequences of global catastrophes that have rocked the world over the last several years. Many students have dealt with feelings of isolation and depression that have made college living that much harder. And, while not all staff fulfill their roles to our standards, good people still exist, and they exist all around us. This is why staff who quietly make a difference in the day-to-day lives of students deserve far more recognition than they’ve previously been afforded.


We’ve polled students across Stetson to see who has made a significant impact on our community. We specifically searched for those who went out of their way to conduct small acts of kindness and consistently invested in the mental health and wellbeing of the Hatters under their purview. The following are the results of our findings: two members of staff came up again and again as unsung heroes and were gracious enough to talk to us about their experiences. 


Deana Lowry: Assistant Director of Wellness and Recreation


What motivates you to go above and beyond the call of duty?


Deana is strongly motivated by her desire to see our generation succeed. “I feel like your generation is going to change the world and if I don’t help in every way that I can, I’m setting [the world] up for failure,” Lowry said. She is often left frustrated at the state of the world, but believes that students in younger generations have the capacity to make positive change and in some ways, represent her hope for the future. 


“I want you guys to leave here ready to take on the next step in your life,” Lowry added, noting how hard it can be for students to be apart from their support systems for the first time. “I want you to feel like that safe space is still available. So you… can come to me, you can sit down, and we don’t even have to talk, we can just stare at each other if that’s what you need. And if that’s what this position does for me in working with students, then I will do that every single day.”


How do you maintain your own mental health while looking after the health of others?


Pondering upon her personal philosophy surrounding mental health, Deana notes that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Her motivation to maintain her own mental health leads right back to her desire to serve. 


A key component for her is her support system. “Luckily, I have a really great support system that kind of calls me out – like my wife. If I’m just in a bad headspace, she’ll ask what we can do. Like, do we need to go get ice cream?” Lowry said.


This enables her to regain her primary focus, which is always the betterment of students. 


“Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others… otherwise you’re going to fail them. It definitely is like a full circle, ” Lowry said.


Caitlyn Alvarado- Administrative Specialist of the History Department & The Building Coordinator for Elizabeth Hall (Pursuing a Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling) 


What motivates you to go above and beyond the call of duty?


Caitlyn prioritizes student relationships above all else. Her hope is to always make someone else’s day a little better. In explaining her logic, she states that “a University cannot be without students. So therefore, what is one of the most important parts of my job? My interactions with students.” 


She emphasizes the centrality of this mission. Students are the heart and soul of Stetson, so supporting them in any way possible should be commonplace. 


“That’s really why we are here, and I think it should be considered more of a standard and less of going above and beyond,” Alvarado said. 


How do you maintain your own mental health while looking after the health of others?


As an aspiring mental health professional, Caitlyn stressed the importance of seeking help often. 


“I believe that the fact that I’m willing to go and see a counselor myself every once in a while, hopefully helps inspire my students to do the same. I don’t think that somebody can be a counselor, or tell other people to see a counselor, without having seen one themselves,” Alvarado said. 


She also cites specific tools and techniques that have helped her and that she hopes can help others as well. 


“I try to use my own examples to help my students. It’s like, you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life. I try to show them how I fish, maybe take them fishing for a little bit, and then I let them go and hope that the skills that I’ve shown them will be helpful,” Alvarado said.


Who else at Stetson do you see as a humble hero? 


“Dr. Chesya Burke, she’s fantastic! Also, Colleen Vanderlip. I saw they [students] trusted her. She’s a good leader. Travis Potter has such a mutual respect with the students, and has a really great relationship with his GA’s. Lynn Schoenberg – I’ve come across a lot of deans who don’t take time out of their day to sit on the front porch just waiting for students to come talk to her. I think her approachability is very admirable,” Lowry said.


“Dr. Mayhill Fowler; she’s known for sitting with students, and she’s just an amazing and kind person. Miss Debbie Tate is absolutely amazing, and she does so much for her work study students. Miss Laura Glander is all about the students. She just does so much for everybody, not just students; she’s like a Stetson unicorn. There are just so many people. I feel bad about saying names because there’s so many names that are being unsaid at the same time,” Alvarado said.


Three cheers for the humble heroes of Stetson! These folks are the secret sauce that truly makes Stetson a community, which is why students adore them so. Have another unsung hero in mind? Hit us up at [email protected] to let us know, or write a Letter to The Editor and have your thoughts showcased in our next issue!