Thursday, October 14, 2010

New director of Stamp Student Union

Dr. Marsha A. Guenzler-Stevens, the new director of Adele H. Stamp Student Union, is not an underachiever. In fact, her middle name might even be ‘Ambitious.'

At 54-years-old, she’s always on the go. Since her time at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, she’s actively participated in higher education-oriented organizations that aimed to improve all students’ university experiences. This never changed.

“My family taught us that in order to make a difference, you had to be engaged in people’s lives and in causes and organizations,” she said. There’s no doubt that her gumption and drive derived from this family motto.

Guenzler-Stevens graduated with honors from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1978 with a degree in biology. While in college, she was part of the student senate, a member of Alpha Omicron Phi, a class officer, student coordinator of orientation and involved in a few musical groups. She was an admissions counselor, too, which allowed her to travel around the Midwest to recruit students.

But, this wasn’t enough. She was a member who founded the organization Council for IWU Women, which still remains at the university to this day. “Women’s self-esteem has always lagged behind men,” she said. This was her motivation for creating the organization to allow university women to work together on this prevalent issue.

Guenzler-Stevens, still an active member of the organization, admits it was the exposure to feminism as an undergraduate that sparked her interest in such a topic.
Guenzler-Stevens’ participation in leading and authoritative roles made her rethink her career path.

In 1982, she earned a master’s degree in counseling and personnel services from Miami University in Ohio and then came to the University of Maryland, College Park as the assistant director of campus activities. She was responsible for nearly 4,200 students, including 21-university-owned and 22 privately owned sorority and fraternity houses, and advised students within the Panhellenic community.

Between 1987 and 1990, she was the Stamp Student Union’s assistant director of development. Her responsibilities included marketing, staff development, fundraising development and more. “I did anything with the word development,” said Guenzler-Stevens.

She was promoted to associate director of Stamp Student Union in 1990--a position that quickly changed when “the former Office of Campus Activities and the Stamp Student Union merged in 1992 and Marsha became Director of Activities and Associate Director of the Stamp Student Union,” said James Osteen, the assistant vice president of student affairs.

Rather than solely maintaining a career at Maryland, Guenzler-Stevens decided to pursue a doctorate in higher education policy and planning and administration, which she earned in 1992. In 1993, she was recognized as the university’s “Outstanding Associate Staff Member,” according to

Now the director of Stamp Student Union, Guenzler-Stevens is relieved knowing she can focus on bigger projects rather than many smaller duties, as she had done in her past positions: “I have stopped taking on multiple tasks and now I am more clear-focused, while working one project at a time.”

Currently, she is working on a strategic review process that previous director Gretchen Metzelaars started. “There are unfinished tasks left from Gretchen, but that is because the student union is a living group with half-done things,” said Guenzler-Stevens. The strategic review process allows Stamp employees to review themselves internally and externally.

One area that needs improvement, she says, is to better support a learning environment. “I have a ton of crazy ideas for this,” she said. “We have a living and learning program for students in residence halls and we want these based in Stamp for nonresidential students, transfers and commuters. This way we can let them know, yes, you do matter.”

Her concern for students’ well being and overall university experience doesn’t go unnoticed. Ruth Anne Watkins, a junior theatre major, once worked in the Office of Campus Programs and compiled Guenzler-Stevens’ survey results after she led a workshop. “The students had nothing but wonderful things to say about her. She has the utmost respect for every person and always brings out the best in people,” said Watkins.

But, it’s not only students who are her biggest fan. “I see her as very competent and extremely capable of performing the duties of her position,” said Osteen, who has known Guenzler-Stevens since 1982. “She is an inspirational leader who is beloved by students and colleagues alike, making her an exceptional choice for this position.”

Dedication is undoubtedly a priority in Guenzler-Stevens’ life. Coming from Stevenson, Md., in Baltimore County at 6 a.m. every morning, she arrives at 7 a.m. and leaves around 6:30 p.m. Working an average of 60 hours per week leaves little room for any free time.

In fact, her idea of leisure is much different than the average person’s. Outside of work, Guenzler-Stevens participates in many organizations. For the past 16 years, she has been a board member of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. With this role comes great responsibility: “For Veteran’s Day, I organized getting together Vietnam vets to do storytelling for the children.”

At her alma mater, Guenzler-Stevens is also president of the alumni association executive board and serves on the board of trustees. She teaches at Maryland, too, including a freshman orientation course for chemistry and life and sciences majors, which she has done for the past 25 years and a graduate course in the summer called Apprenticeship in Counseling and Personnel Services: College Student Personnel.

“But life is more than work,” she said. “I realized in my early 40s that you need to enjoy life to the fullest and spend time with the people you love.”
Born on Aug. 19, 1956, she was raised by her father and mother in the suburbs of Chicago. Her mother, Mary Ann, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1978, which makes it difficult for Guenzler-Stevens to live a few states away. “I call her after work every day and I like to visit her every few months,” she said.

Guenzler-Stevens is married to Randy Stevens, head of St. Timothy’s School, an all-girls private boarding school located in Stevenson. “I’m married to a cool guy,” she said. “We don’t have any children but me and my husband like to say that we are raising many other children.” To support his career, she makes an effort to eat a 4:30 p.m. dinner with the girls and her husband every week.

The token amount of time spent at home is when Guenzler-Stevens likes to spend time with her golden retrievers, named Eleanor Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, read a good book or watch a movie. “I like a thoughtful read or books that are socially redemptive,” she said, like Freedom Writers. “I also enjoy movies that profoundly move me, such as the movie Philadelphia with Tom Hanks.” A lover of chick flicks, she said, “I could watch When Harry Met Sally 100 times.”

Her free time may be minimal, but Guenzler-Stevens admits she enjoys what she does, which makes it all worthwhile: “What motivates me the most is the desire to do a good job and the sense that you are helping students to learn and grow. Making the world--or at least College Park--work for students is my base motivation.”