The Woman Behind the Pups

By Jennifer Sanchez

The Woman Behind the Pups

By Jennifer Sanchez
UPUP’s faculty advisor discusses her life on campus with puppies and the students who have made the service club such a success.

The bright and airy living room nestled in the University of Miami’s Eaton Residential Hall is not what you’d expect to find in a college dormitory. For starters, the residence isn’t occupied by students, but instead is the home of Joy Beverly, math lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences, her husband, and their dog, Colin.  Beverly, a senior residential faculty and advisor for UPUP, which raises future service dogs from puppyhood until they are ready for advanced training, has been a lecturer at the University of Miami since 2001. But it wasn’t until five years ago that she made the Coral Gables campus her home. While life on a campus certainly isn’t typical, Beverly has managed to create an environment where students and their Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) puppies are always welcome, often inviting conversations about everything from tips on puppy-training tips to surviving statistics.

Though it was Beverly’s idea to establish UPUP, she is quick to credit the student members for the organization’s success. To date they have worked with 6 CCI dogs in total and have almost doubled the number of student members. When she speaks about their efforts, her excitement and pride in fostering student success and leadership far beyond classroom walls is apparent.

Q: What came first, the U or the pups?

A: I had always grown up with dogs, but I’ve been a math lecturer at the University since 2001, so technically the U came first. It was my daughter who first got involved with CCI while working on her Girl Scout Gold Award. When Colin, the puppy she raised, wasn’t selected to move on in the program, he became part of the family. Since then, we’ve raised two CCI puppies and have worked with six dogs in total.

Now that Colin lives with us full time, he is able to do regular therapy visits at UHealth’s Lennar Foundation Medical Center. His training is always reinforced at home, but he enjoys life on campus and loves the attention.

Q: What prompted your initial support and continued involvement with UPUP?

A: Most people are surprised when I share that my interest never really stemmed from the dogs. Instead, I saw the opportunity to help people with disabilities through CCI and that is what drove my enthusiasm about the introduction and development of UPUP. Many in the UM community have misconceptions about the work UPUP student members do and I hope that as the organization continues to grow, people will see that UPUP is not about dogs, but is about building student leaders and serving those in need.

Q: You mentioned the need for general awareness about the organization; what are some of the other challenges UPUP has faced?

A: I think the students and I would agree that the most difficult part of the program is when our dogs finish their preliminary training, usually when they’re 18 months old, and leave us for their advanced training and, hopefully, placement with a person whose life they will enhance. It can be hard to let them go, but we often remind ourselves that our graduates are helping others fulfill their lives in ways that were once impossible.

Aside from the emotional attachments that we build while training, we have had a lot of challenges surrounding the lack of awareness about service dogs compared to emotional support dogs. This challenge, though ongoing, has prompted our students to organize UPUP’s Service Dog Awareness Week, where they host events on campus for their peers to learn more about the work being done when the dogs are on campus.

Q: Has living on campus as a senior faculty resident created a different dynamic when working with puppies and students?

A: Living in Eaton Residential College certainly makes it easier for me to help in the rare event that the students get into a bind when scheduling trainings or coverage, but that doesn’t happen often. The Puppy Raisers (PRs) and the UPUP trainers have developed a system based on the pups’ schedules so that they are constantly supervised and training. It’s important that the dogs accompany the students and train in real-life settings such as classrooms, large events, and even encounters with ducks.

If anything, being located in Eaton has allowed me to connect more frequently with students who I may not have in class or know from UPUP. I think by inviting students into my home and sharing a campus with them, they feel they can approach me in a conversational way about questions that may not come to mind when they are in class.

Q: Speaking of classes, the field of mathematics has been historically male dominated—how did you decide on the subject as your career path?

A: I was identified as having promise in mathematics in middle school and encouraged to take an advanced track. In high school I played on the basketball, volleyball, and softball teams, ran track, and was part of the math team. I was the only female and the only athlete on the math team, so I became accustomed to existing in a world where I was a bit different.  I credit athletics as giving me the confidence to work and study alongside mostly males both in college and in my career now. 

I must say that everyone at the UM Math Department has always treated me with equity and respect. I have mentored several young women who have completed math majors. I hope that mentoring and being visible in my field will encourage more young women to enter mathematics and other STEM fields.

Beverly’s approach to mentorship and passion for cultivating student leaders are among the many qualities that have earned her recognition in 2018.  Earlier this year she was tapped into UM’s Iron Arrow Honor Society and was honored as 2018 Faculty Advisor of the Year by the Committee on Student Organizations (COSO). Her positive approach to academics and commitment to servant leadership are invaluable to the UM community—making her much more than just the lady behind the pups.