Alcohol and Other Drugs Education Coordinator - University Health Center
Are you from Athens originally? If not, where did you grow up?
I am from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I liked growing up there because I love the beach!
Did you attend college and, if so, where and what did you study?
I…went to the University of Florida. Hopefully our students and staff won’t hold that against me [laughs]. I really liked my experience there. I was able to be an involved student leader, grow as a person, and really dive into my major in criminology and law. After I completed my degree, I worked full-time for a little while before going back to school. I attended Bowling Green State University, where I got my degree in College Student Personnel.
You mentioned being an involved student leader on campus while at UF. What are some of the things you were a part of?
Getting a chance to learn and grow outside of the classroom really propelled me into the field I’m in now. I was a part of criminology and law honor society, was an RA (resident assistant), on a dance team, in a co-ed business fraternity, an employee relations ambassador for the career resource center, worked in campus dining, and plenty of other things.
Being an RA really opened [up] a whole world of being able to connect and contribute to the university community. It helped me grow in my confidence as a leader. I would say that and putting myself out there to try out to be on a dance team helped bolster my confidence as a person and a leader. When you are either responding to a resident in crisis or needing to stay on top of your schedule to balance academics with other commitments, it really [helps] you grow leaps and bounds as a person.
What did you do before you went back to school to get a degree in college student personnel? Why the shift?
While in undergrad, I had a Loss Prevention internship with Ross that helped me expand on my coursework in criminology and law. When I graduated, I felt compelled to do something related to my undergraduate degree. I participated in the executive development program with Macy’s and it helped me explore whether I was fully interested in this being the career pathway for me. Through the experience, I learned I wasn’t really fulfilling what I was meant to do. My brother knew that I had been weighing all this but was a little afraid to make the leap. So, he surprised me with a gift of signing me up for the GRE and encouraged -- or pushed [laughs] -- me to chase this opportunity. It’s because of him and his encouragement that I prioritized entering higher education.
Did you have an assistantship at Bowling Green State University? If so, what was the focus area?
Yes! I was in the department of recreation and wellness, working with Wellness Connection initiatives. My responsibilities included programming and development of events that helped students tie health and wellness into their daily lives. I had practicum internships in other offices and departments, but wellness and helping others incorporate wellness into their lives is an area of the field that I am very passionate about.
Do you have any hobbies or things that you like to do for fun?
I like to try new things all the time. I make jewelry, paint, dance, and love to read. A genre of books that I always enjoy is self and professional development books. I write sometimes, but not as much as I would like. I also like to travel. I would like to visit Hawaii one day.
What do you like most about working in UGA Student Affairs or about your job?
So much! [laughs] No, seriously. I get to do some really cool things each day. One of [my] favorite things about my work is the presentations with and for students about health and wellness. It creates an open dialogue about things that they, or their friends, might be struggling with managing. Sometimes a big perception is “everyone else is drinking so I should too,” and it’s incredibly powerful to honor a student’s fears and help them realize they aren’t alone. That they can pursue their own pathway and not have to worry about “fitting in” with others. It can sometimes be quite difficult for students to ask for help out of fear of “getting in trouble” or ruining a relationship with someone they care a lot about. I get to be the person that has resources and time to listen to them as they navigate all of that while also trying to go to class, lead their student organization, and so much more.
What might be something other staff do not know about the work your office does?
We do wellness coaching with students. Sometimes they feel really stuck in their patterns or forget that they are a person first and a student second. We help them develop their wellness goals such as time management and stress management techniques so they can be in a good place as they enter the classroom each day.
Other things colleagues might not necessarily know about alcohol and other drug education is [that] the standard is constantly changing. We always have to adapt and adjust to an ever-evolving field of population needs, trends, etc. Another factor that heavily influences our work is how varied a student’s support network might be. Some have mentors, coaches, family, friends, and other humans in their life they can rely on to help manage stress, navigating the college experience, and all the other things they bring with them the first day they come to campus, and others might not. In turn, it challenges us to be up to date with current trends and to adapt to the needs of each student.
If someone wanted to collaborate with you, what would they reach out to you about?
We would love to partner! For example, if someone advised a student organization or group, we could come into an executive board or general body meeting to do a workshop on stress management, coping skills, and developing connections to weave health and wellness into their daily life. Sometimes student leaders spend so much time on helping others that they don’t take the time to connect with their own selves as people. Instead of putting it on someone else to find the time to develop a meeting or workshop for them, we can come in and lead the entire thing!
Any advice for newer staff or things that you’d like to share?
My advice would be to determine what you deem as a success. Yeah, there’s a good chance those are outlined for you in your job description but make a point to figure out “what made today a great day?” and be okay with that might not happen every day. Not everything is going to happen in the first, second, or third time frame you have set up for yourself, so be patient with yourself and others. Examine how you determine and define meaning and value in your work and life beyond work, be ready to share that with others. Creating buy-in can come from something as simple as sharing something you are excited and passionate about.
Anything you would like others to know? It could be about your work or just in general.
I feel like this is my calling. I enjoy getting to do things that I view as essential to the student, and people, experience. There is plenty of opportunity to shatter barriers, reduce stereotypes, and help students grow as people while they are here. I really enjoy getting to help a student break through feeling like they “aren’t enough” when something on social media or in their experience makes them feel that way. While that might seem simple when it is written, if they aren’t fully able to appreciate who they are as a person, then that can dramatically impact their performance in the classroom as well as how they engage within the UGA community.
What’s the coolest thing you have ever done and why?
One of the coolest things I’ve probably ever done was going to the Ukraine in 2005 with my family and get to see where my dad and his side of the family grew up. It was incredible to see his experience, see where my grandparents worked, and just view what his life what like before he came to the US.
Liana was nominated and selected by a group of her peers as the 2019 Student Affairs Awards recipient of New Professional of the Year. All nominees and award recipients were contacted to participate in a Staff Spotlight feature. Have a colleague that you want to recognize for their work? Contact us at email@example.com or complete the Staff Spotlights form at the link below.