March 31, 2021
Like most of you, my first experience with Student Activities was my freshman year. I attended a movie night on the lawn my first week at Liberty and was impressed with how well the department created an environment for students to connect with one another. A few years later, I was still in my undergrad and needing a part time job. I had always admired how SA served students and I was eager to learn more about joining their team. After volunteering for a semester, I quickly became invested and was hired my senior year. I’ve held many positions at SA, all of which have fond memories; from an event supervisor to promotions manager to my position today as director, I’ve seen so much of SA through the years. Throughout my time, we’ve grown from 50 events a year to over 80 events, revamped our calendar dozens of times, and even began the Outdoor Recreation department (originally a division of SA). I’ve had the opportunity to help change and shape this department in so many ways, but this month, all of that changes as I move on to a new career. It’s a bittersweet moment, one that forces me to reflect on the last decade. With reflecting comes a lot of gratitude and “thank yous” to all that have influenced me in leading this department over the past decade.
I’ve worked with hundreds of students and in a lot of ways, SA has become a home. We’ve spent some late nights together prepping for events, failing, succeeding, and everything in-between. I have countless stories of events that almost didn’t happen, bands canceling at the last minute, working way too many Block Party’s in the rain, and all the times I made the wrong decision. But I also have so many memories that outweigh those difficult times – memories and people that have taught me to be adaptable, patient, flexible, and to give grace and empathy. Those are the most important lessons I’ll take with me.
What I’ve always admired about SA is how it transcends time. Working at a university means so many people move on each year, but our department’s success has never hinged on one person (though I would like to believe I’ve played a small part in our immense growth the last few years). This department is a collective group of people who are willing to care and grow and change – who, when they move on, leave an imprint on our department that continues far beyond their physical time here. That’s one reason I’m sitting here writing this today – I want to thank anyone who has influenced me, who has made this department what it is, and who comes alongside us to fulfill our mission every day. Each of you help grow our community and foster the culture around us, and I’m grateful to have led this team and to have learned right beside each of you. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in leading people is that my position at the top doesn’t mean I know everything – it is actually quite the opposite. I’ve learned more from those I lead than I ever could on my own.
To our students – though I haven’t met nearly all of you, SA would be nothing without your support, encouragement, feedback, and love. You make Liberty a great place to serve and SA possible. You are why we do what we do!
To all the event and marketing staff – you have taught me the most about team work, how to lead empathetically, and that work friendships are some of the best gifts of all. Thank you for making SA such a wonderful place to come to each day.
And to all the full-time staff I’ve worked with (this is the hardest one) – you’ve changed my life so much. You’ve seen my worst days, you’ve stepped up when I couldn’t, and you’ve trusted me to lead you well. You’re the reason I love leading people and why this job is so important to me. I wouldn’t be me without each of you.
And to anyone reading this, I want to encourage those of you who feel like change is difficult or who are feeling sad about moving on to what’s next. Maybe it’s even for those of you who aren’t fully investing in the people here. Each experience we go through comes at the most perfect time. I don’t ever think we’ll be ready for change and I don’t think I’ll ever grow to like the process of it. But as someone who sees the end of a chapter nearing, I encourage you to not lose sight of what’s right in front of you right now. Focus on where God has placed you, because that’s where He will build and shape you for your next move. Use this time to build friendships, lean on one another, and live this experience to the fullest. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Thanks for a great 13 years, SA – you’ve changed my life and I’m so lucky to have been the one to lead you. I can’t wait to continue to watch you grow.
Written by: Steph Ward
Steph is the Director of Student Activities. She has a B.S. in Visual Communication Arts: Graphic Design and a M.S. in Management. Steph oversees the overall calendar and vision of the Student Activities Department from promotion to execution and analysis. She also leads the Student Activities staff, comprised of 20+ full time and student worker employees.