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Meet the Staff: Resident Student Advocate Office

Justin Mercer | Director

I am a native of Fountain, North Carolina. At an early age I gave my heart to the Lord and worked in ministry with my family - Pastor James and Brenda Mercer, and younger sister Yolanda at Zion Grove Baptist Church in Aulander, NC. Upon graduating from high school, I departed for college to attend North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.

As a student I joined the Upper Room Church of God in Christ; where the Pastor is Dr. Patrick L. Wooden, Sr. I accepted the call into the ministry during the summer of my freshman year. Under my Pastor’s leadership, I was driven to serve as the Campus Ministry President at the University. In 2009, I was appointed as an Elder and the President of Upper Room’s Children’s Church.

I have gained a variety of experiences in health care and sales industries, and Christian-centered education. All of these experiences have prepared me for my role at Liberty. I am happily married to my devoted wife, Lori. We have two young energetic sons, Justin Jr. and Kellan Matthew, and one daughter, Sarah Loren.

I am eager with expectation to serve at Liberty University. It is my belief that if you put God First he will take care of every aspect of your life. This is what Liberty has done to “Train Champions for Christ” in the past, the present, and I am willing to give my INFINITE percent to insure that it will continue in the future. GO FLAMES!

jmercer16@liberty.edu


Joshua Haley | Associate Director

I was born in Jacksonville, Florida but moved to Rochester, New York with my family when I was 6 years old because my parents were invited to help start a church. I spent the next 23 years in Rochester serving with my parents in the church and learning from their testimony. Along the way I received my B.A. in English from Roberts Wesleyan College. I moved to Lynchburg in 2006 to earn my M.A. in Religious Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary which helped to further shape my Christian world view. Lynchburg is an amazing place to be involved in ministry and to share relationships with other believers. One such believer is my wife whom I met in Lynchburg in 2008. We married the following year and are now parents to two beautiful children.

As a lifelong learner, I believe that Christian education is critical if Christianity is going to continue to persist in the world. I believe that Liberty University will give you the greatest opportunity to be the best professional you can be, while also impacting the professional field you have chosen for Christ. It is my prayer that I will be available to assist you as you seek to serve Christ through your education and beyond.

 jahaley@liberty.edu | (434) 592-3987


Steve Thomas | Senior Student Advocate

I was born and raised in Newark, Delaware and I gave my life to Christ at the age of eight.  I have had the opportunity to learn in Christian schools since I was in second grade.  When I was a junior in high school, the Lord began to work through a variety of situations and people in my life to lead me to the point of accepting a call to full-time ministry.  It was at this point that I started looking into what school I should attend and eventually chose to attend Liberty University.

I began my time at Liberty University in the fall of 2006 as a freshman and immediately jumped into the role of a Prayer Leader on my hall. I continued on as a Spiritual Life Director the following year and then as a Resident Assistant the last two years of my bachelors degree, which I received in Youth Ministry. I served another two years as a Resident Assistant while doing two summer internships at churches before receiving my Masters of Divinity in Professional Ministry.

I currently enjoy serving in my local church with both the high school and elementary school ministries. I’m an avid sports fan and frequent many Liberty sports games. I enjoy spending time with friends, family and wife. I look forward to seeing where God leads my wife and I, both now and in the future.

 spthomas@liberty.edu | (434) 592-6165


Timi Plyter | Student Advocate

I am a native upstate New Yorker. I accepted the Lord at the age of 26 and have had a wonderful walk with my Lord ever since. My husband, Richard and I have been married over 40 years! We have 3 happily married sons, five granddaughters, and two grandsons and another on the way!  They are my delight. My two younger sons served in the military ... one is retired Navy, one served 8 years in the Army. My oldest son serves in the Lord’s army here at home and heads the men’s ministry at a church here in Lynchburg.

We moved to Lynchburg in 1996 because our youngest son, through one of God's miracles, was going to attend Liberty University. My husband and I both began working here in 1997. He is now retired but worked for years in Admissions and I worked as the receptionist in the Registrar's Office for 7 years. I now have the honor of serving students as a Student Advocate since the office’s inception in 2004.

The Lord has given me a phenomenal love for all of the students here and I deem it an honor to serve His Kingdom members at this university. Liberty University is a wonderful place to have your faith undergirded and strengthened!  I give a mustard seed to each student with whom I meet and ask them to memorize Matthew 17:20.  We have even planted some seeds in pots in our office to encourage the students.

 tplyter@liberty.edu | (434) 592-3984


Leigh Detzel | Student Advocate

When I was a freshman many years ago, I struggled heavily with eating disorders and deep depression. I took every step to make sure I hid my life of shame from friends and family. When I realized that I was at my absolute lowest, the Lord sweetly broke me. From then on, I began a serious journey in which God completely rocked my life; for the better!

I studied government and pre-law at Liberty University. My original intent was to go to law school, but I was offered a full time job here in 2009, and I am so thankful that I did not attend law school -- the Lord knows that I am too tenderhearted to be one! I love my job here.

My hobbies include cycling, running, swimming, and adventuring. I love reading, hand-writing letters to my grandparents, all kinds of movies and TV, and animals, including my two pet rabbits, Gryffindor and Luna. I have 2 sisters, one brother, and 2 brothers-in-law who live in Pennsylvania.

I have the best job in the world; I get to serve faculty, staff and students on a daily basis. Finding ways to make your experience at Liberty University positive, life-changing and challenging is an amazing aspect of this job. I want to help you succeed at Liberty!

 ledetzel@liberty.edu | (434) 592-3151


Aaron Garcia | Student Advocate

I am a native New Englander, born and raised in southern New Hampshire. The Lord brought me to Lynchburg, VA in the Fall of 2007 after a long battle with what the Lord’s next step for me would be. God eventually called me into full-time ministry and Liberty University was the place to begin, starting with a Bachelor’s of Religion. Coming to the South was quite a transition for this New Englander. (I must say – adopting the word “y’all” was the hardest!)

My first year at Liberty University, I became involved in Student Leadership on my hall and so enjoyed this ministry opportunity among my peers. God has given me a passion for leadership and discipleship. During my time at Liberty I met the love of my life, Lorél, and we were married about a year after graduation. I am currently working on my Master of Divinity, and am enjoying the journey.

My hobbies include spontaneous adventures with my wife and our two energetic dogs, reading, and biking. I really enjoy building relationships with students and working with them to help them succeed at what God has put before them. I am so excited to be joining the Student Advocate team, and am looking forward to serving Liberty students and helping them be as successful as possible as a student at the world’s most exciting university!

 asgarcia@liberty.edu | (434) 592-6536


Lindsay Burgess | Student Advocate

I was raised in Roanoke, Virginia all my life.  I was so blessed to grow up in what I think is one of the prettiest states in the United States as I get to enjoy and marvel at God’s beautiful creation whenever I see the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround the Roanoke Valley.  My older brother and I were homeschooled through high school, and I am grateful for the opportunity that we were given to learn at home through a Biblical worldview and be involved in events year round with other homeschoolers in the area.  As I approached my high school graduation, I decided that I wanted to pursue my love of music in my college career.  I had begun taking piano lessons when I was 7 years old, and I fell in love with music and the instrument.  Even though Liberty University was only a short hour’s drive from my home, I had not considered attending there.  But the Lord began opening doors and made it plain that Liberty is where He wanted me to be.  I graduated in May of 2012 with a Bachelor of Music degree.

I am blessed to still be a part of the Liberty family, and I am so excited to be serving the student body with the Student Advocate Office.  I have been struck by this office’s heart for the students and how they seek to help the students in any way they can to make their years on this campus a success, and I am humbled and honored to now be a part of that ministry.

 leburgess@liberty.edu | (434) 592-4614


Jonathan Dimanche | Student Advocate

I was born and raised in Long Island, New York. Being the middle child with four sisters, I spent a lot of my childhood playing backyard games, hanging out with friends and traveling with my father. I was raised in church but my rough and tough environment made it difficult for me to focus on my relationship with God. During the middle of my ninth grade year, my family moved to the eastern part of Long Island to plant a church. God changed my surroundings and I had no excuses to follow Him. As I began to take my relationship with Christ more seriously, a few friends and I began a bible study in my public high school.

I was accepted and began attending Liberty University in the Fall of 2008. As I developed in my studies as a student at Liberty, my family was directly impacted by the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. I anticipated going to Haiti to help my family but it was not God's timing yet.  Three months later I was able to go on a missions trip to Haiti and also see my family. Since that time, God has allowed me to spend 185 days doing mission work in Haiti!

From the first time I heard of Liberty University, I knew that I belonged here. This warm Christian environment has helped cultivate many strong Christians. I am honored to be a part of the Liberty family.

jdimanche@liberty.edu | (434) 592-3979


Britney Register | Student Advocate

I was born and raised in Roanoke, VA where I grew up with two younger brothers and a younger sister. I was homeschooled all the way through high school and then went on to attend Liberty University where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion.

Since my early teens I have had a passion for missions and for helping others. I grew up in a local church where local and international missions was a priority. In 2012, I had the opportunity to serve in the Czech Republic teaching English in local schools and businesses while developing relationships with students and co-workers. During that time, my relationship with God grew so much. I have learned many things about ministry and being a servant no matter where God has you or what He has asked you to do.

I returned to the U.S. a year later and found that my reliance on God and my faith in Him was going to be stretched even further. I had to have complete reliance on God for His provision and had to trust His guidance to lead me wherever He wanted me to be. A year later, I find myself joining the Student Advocate Office where I serve students who are attending Liberty University. I am excited about joining the Student Advocate team and I am eager to be a part of this ministry on Liberty University’s campus.

 bellis@liberty.edu | (434) 592-6149


Jason Brake | Student Advocate

I grew up in Northeast Ohio, where at the age of 11 I accepted Jesus to be my Lord and Savior in my home church. Each step in life I have grown in my faith by God's grace. I graduated from Grove City College in 2000 with a degree in Mathematics & Computer Science and in the same year I married Jennifer. Out of college I worked customer service in industrial supply and insurance fields. We have two boys, Daniel and Josiah whom we homeschool, and as a family we have been on an adventure serving God. In 2009 Jennifer and I graduated from seminary in The Salvation Army and we were commissioned as officers sent to work in Maine and Vermont. We had many wonderful and interesting experiences while serving in this capacity doing the most good.

Having moved frequently, our family is really looking forward to settling down and placing our roots in Virginia. Jennifer is a graduate of Liberty University Online and she has brothers who are currently attending and working on campus. I am very blessed and excited to be a part of the Liberty family. It is my desire to bless and serve students and their parents as a Student Advocate.

 jrbrake@liberty.edu | (434) 592-6537


Stephen Stafford | Student Advocate

I was born and raised in sunny South Florida. I became a Christian during the spring semester of my junior year in high school. Upon graduating from high school, a friend and I traded the beach for the mountains and came to Liberty University. In 2012 I earned a B.S. in Religion with a minor in Greek and I’m now currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching. As a student, I was very involved in Student Leadership and thoroughly enjoyed my time on campus.

I met my wife during my junior year at Liberty and we have now been married for three years. We recently purchased a home in Lynchburg and enjoy exercising with our dog Riley, frequenting the community market, and teaching Sunday school at our church. I am very excited about joining the Student Advocate Office and look forward to helping students reach their goals during their time at Liberty.

 sstafford@liberty.edu |  (434) 592-5854


Rosemary Shakro | Operations Coordinator

Born and raised in Danbury, Connecticut, I grew up in a Christian home with three younger brothers, accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of four. Since grade school, I attended private Christian schools which supported my foundation in Christ. My parents taught me the importance of family through our American-Lebanese heritage, and, most importantly, taught me morals and values based upon the Bible. Attending one of Connecticut’s largest public high schools, I shared my faith with others by example as a leader of Youth Alive club.

I earned my Bachelors degree at Liberty University, where I grew spiritually, academically, and emotionally, graduating in 2012 with a degree in Elementary Education. I went back to Connecticut after graduation, but the more I prayed for direction, I lived with that sense of “You belong back at Liberty.”

In the meantime, I recruited two of my brothers to attend here. Once my youngest brother graduates from high school, he’ll be heading this way and we’ll be a true Liberty family!

Looking forward to this new opportunity to begin my career, I bring with me a heart to serve, support, and encourage each student to attain his or her full potential. As God has opened the door for me to return to Liberty, I am blessed and grateful to be a part of the Student Advocate team. I’m eager to assist Liberty students to have the best experience here at the world’s largest, most exciting Christian university, just as I did.

 rjshakro@liberty.edu |  (434) 592-4844


Shadrach Hicks | Office Assistant

I was born and raised in Bakersfield, California in a Christian home. My two older siblings are alumni of Liberty University and I fell in love with the campus when I traveled across the country to visit them. I grew up surrounded by animals since my father, like myself, is a pet enthusiast. I love to travel and try new things. One of my greatest accomplishments in life was when I was given the opportunity to feed a giraffe, my favorite animal, at a safari zoo.

I am a Communications major at Liberty and am President of the Lamda Pi Eta Society. I hope to someday work for a human rights organization and own my very own corgi named Zeus. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with the staff here at the Student Advocate Office!

 shicks35@liberty.edu