Student Affairs Newbie Wins NASPA Outstanding New Professional Award

From left to right: Jody Conway (NASPA Region III Summer Symposium Awards Co-Chair; University of Tampa); Anthony DeSantis (NASPA Region III Director; University of Florida); Heather Stevens; Lorie Kittendorf (NASPA Region III Summer Symposium Awards Co-Chair; University of Tampa)

By Andres Tamayo

From left to right: Jody Conway (NASPA Region III Summer Symposium Awards Co-Chair; University of Tampa); Anthony DeSantis (NASPA Region III Director; University of Florida); Heather Stevens; Lorie Kittendorf (NASPA Region III Summer Symposium Awards Co-Chair; University of Tampa)

Student Affairs Newbie Wins NASPA Outstanding New Professional Award

By Andres Tamayo
UM Student Affairs Advocacy Coordinator Heather Stevens has been awarded the William Leftwich Award for Outstanding New Professional in NASPA Region III.

Heather Stevens was at the annual Greek Life Banquet when she received a frantic text message from a student. There was an urgent situation and two students needed to see her right away. Stevens quickly left the banquet and headed back to her office.

As she walked into her office, the students followed. They both had important information that had to be dealt with immediately, they told her. Trying to keep themselves together, they handed Stevens a piece of paper and waited for her to respond.

Stevens looked down at the paper with a header from NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and read “Congratulations, you have been awarded the William Leftwich Award for Outstanding New Professional in NASPA Region III.”

“You have got to be kidding me!” Stevens recalled saying when she first read the congratulatory letter. The urgent matter was finally resolved. Stevens now knew that she had received the NASPA award over applicants from eleven southeastern states as well as Armenia, Bulgaria, Japan, Kenya, South Africa and Taiwan.

"Thankfully I don’t have to give a speech or anything like that… I asked,” Stevens joked. In her case, it’s okay; her larger-than-life personality speaks for itself.

It is this personality, coupled with her outstanding work ethic, that has students and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely happy to see Stevens thriving.

“This prestigious award is a testament to Heather’s passion, commitment and advocacy of our UM students. I am thrilled her outstanding work has been recognized,” Whitely said.

Now in her second year as a full-time employee in Student Affairs, Stevens is a student advocacy coordinator, advises 'Canes Care for 'Canes and Student Government, and assists on ombudsperson cases. A teaching assistant, she also helps with large-scale events, such as Commencement.

Additionally, Stevens is an advisor for TedxUMiami and a board member for the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program.

“The most rewarding part of my job is being able to work one-on-one with our students and help guide them to be successful,” Stevens said.

Incoming Student Government President Adrian Nuñez met Stevens during his freshman year at UM and has been close with her ever since. “She is one of the most impactful people I’ve met throughout my collegiate career,” he said.

Stevens was originally drawn to UM for its neuroscience undergraduate program, but realized that “science wasn’t for me.” During her sophomore year, she changed her major to English literature and psychology and never looked back. Upon graduating from UM, Stevens decided to continue her education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at UM, and graduated a second time in 2015.

When thinking back on her journey from Michigan, to Fort Lauderdale, to Miami, Stevens couldn’t help but think about where she would be today. “I don’t know if I would’ve found Student Affairs if I was anywhere else.”

Luckily, Stevens found her way to Miami where she made a perfect match.