By Abby Weingarten
Being a mentor for students and inspiring them to pursue balanced lives makes Susan Stahley’s work worthwhile.
She joined New College on September 14 in the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) as the new Health Educator—a position that focuses on promoting sexual, mental and physical health, as well as alcohol/other drug awareness and education.
“I love creating those ‘a-ha’ moments when a person hears a message or attends a program and takes away something meaningful they will use in their life’s choices,” Stahley said. “And I love watching students grow and learn as they progress through their years at school.”
Helping students progress through college in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is no easy task, of course, but Stahley looks forward to the challenge. She will be encouraging students to wear masks, wash their hands, maintain social distancing, participate in random testing and use their daily symptom checkers. And she plans to do so in a dynamic way that will keep them engaged.
“I think, at this point, we are all tired of the restrictions that COVID-19 has necessitated in our lives. Keeping positive energy and the need for masks, social distance, and doing what we need to do to get things ‘back to normal’ on a daily basis is challenging for all of us,” Stahley said. “A very big challenge is needing to create virtual programs that are interesting, fun and yet educational that will garner/hold student participation.”
Stahley has a history of creating these fun, interactive programs. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, she holds a bachelor of social work degree from the University of Georgia and a master of social work degree from the University of Hawaii. Her love of prevention work began during a graduate school internship with Aloha United Way.
Since then, Stahley has alternated between prevention education jobs: a student assistance counselor at Norview High School in Virginia; an alcohol and drug educator at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; the director of the Office of Alcohol, Drugs and Health Education at George Mason University; and a mental health/substance abuse crisis worker at Tidewater Psychiatric Institute, Kahi Mohala and Mobile CriSys Team North Carolina.
“The ultimate joy for me, in my work, is having a student work with me and say, ‘I want to do what you do,’ Stahley said. “And then I watch them develop their skillset, seek further education, and go into the helping profession as a successful social worker, educator or prevention specialist.”
To ultimately be successful in a health education/prevention role, Stahley strongly believes that “it takes a village,” and she looks forward to collaborative programming and interactions with students, faculty and staff at New College.
“I have worked at both large and small institutions, and I find that a smaller student population provides me with the opportunity to get to know students and have a greater impact in creating healthier and safer lifestyles,” Stahley said. “I’m excited to start programming (virtually or otherwise) and to create an enthusiastic team of peer educators to help with the work I do. I miss the connections I had with students at my previous institution, and I am eager to create connections here at New College.”
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.