June 3, 2011
First published in The Diamondback.
STAMP director Marsha Guenzler-Stevens strives to be a bug of encouragement in a young woman’s ear — reinforcing that they are beautiful and that they can succeed.
“Our friends at Duke University did a study of women on their campus and they said that their undergraduate women, and this fits us all, wanted effortless perfection. They wanted to be smart, fit, cute, bright, capable, always there for a friend and they wanted to do all of that without looking like it took any effort or sweat,” she said to a group of hundreds at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders. “And so the seeds of doubt are sewed because we believe we should be flawless. But we all find out all too soon that we fart, we fail, we have bad hair days.”
At last week’s conference held at the university, Guenzler-Stevens was one of five who received the Woman of Distinction award for the difference she has made in the lives of college-aged women, empowering them and helping turn them into leaders in their community.
“Marsha was picked because she has been a true pioneer with women, particularly women veterans and college students,” said Brooke Supple, the university’s chief of staff for student affairs, who also helps to decide who receives the NCCWSL awards.
Since Guenzler-Stevens has worked at the university for nearly 30 years as the professor of EDCP418G: Women’s Leadership and as an employee at the student union, she has helped generations of female students find their inner strength.
“Many students regard her as an inspirational figure inside and outside the classroom; we see her living some of the values she espouses,” said James McShay, the student union’s associate director. “I feel she is so deserving of this award. I consider her to be a pioneer on so many levels.”
She has an ability to help students overcome the challenges they face as young ladies, helping them grow a confidence that allows them to be comfortable in their own skin, he said.
And for university alumnus Bridget Schultz, Guenzler-Stevens was that person.
“She made such a positive impact on my life from the day I met her,” Schultz said. “She is such an inspiring woman. She has taught me how amazing women are and shown me they can make a huge impact.”
After Hurricane Katrina hit, Schlutz was forced to move from her New Orleans home to this state — and she said Guenzler-Stevens comforted her.
“I was a very shy and timid girl. Marsha welcomed me,” Schlutz said. “What was unique about Marsha’s motivation was that it wasn’t through words that she motivated me — it was through her actions. Marsha is an amazing woman and she is loved by all and seeing her lead by example made me want to work to be the best person I could be.”
Although Guenzler-Stevens was nationally recognized Thursday for her role as an inspiration to college-aged women, she said these young ladies are her true teachers.
“They might think I’m their mentor, but they’re the ones who have helped me through bad days and when I wasn’t proud of myself,” Guenzler-Stevens said.
Guenzler-Stevens’ said her internal struggle with gaining self-esteem motivated her to work in women’s leadership.
“I think the challenge that constantly haunts me and so many is that of confidence. Am I good enough, should I risk doing this,” she said. “Sometimes it kept me from taking on the risk or applying for the job or it caused me worry.”
Other recipients of this year’s award are Connie Chung, an Emmy-award winning correspondent, Swanee Hunt, a former ambassador and Harvard University’s Eleanor Roosevelt lecturer in public policy, Lisa Jackson, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator and Natalie Randolph, Calvin Coolidge Senior High School varsity football head coach, one of two high school men’s coaching football team.
To view Tweets about the conference click here.
“Finding Your Voice” with Marsha Guenzler-Stevens
Story shared during “Finding Your Voice”
Guenzler-Stevens shares a story during “Finding Your Voice”