Five Minutes with Lyza Ballard, Triage Counselor

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Lyza BallardLyza Ballard has been a member of the The University of Olivet family since 2017, first serving as an adjunct instructor before joining the Student Engagement Team. In her role as triage counselor, Lyza meets with students to provide on-campus counseling services and mental health resources. As a licensed social worker, Lyza has a deep passion for helping others. She especially enjoys working with students to help them navigate the barriers or limitations they experience by empowering them to connect with resources and find solutions. Lyza holds a bachelor’s degree and a dual master’s degree in social work and public administration with a focus on nonprofit administration.
Why do you love OC?
I previously served as an adjunct professor for Self and Community for two years. I had some incredible students both years that made me love every second of my class. This class brought a very cool opportunity to build a healthy skepticism and critical thinking component to approach different life-related realities. During this time, I saw an opportunity to assist students coming from very different backgrounds to build community despite religious, political or identity views. I connected with Provost Maria Davis, Ph.D., and learned of some opportunities to grow the mental health programming on campus. I am excited to be a part of this initiative and to be in a role where I can make a difference.
What is your favorite memory from your time at OC?
I always feel empowered that I am making a difference whenever I hear students or staff affirm the need for mental health resources or when others recognize the push toward developing a more cohesive program on campus. I am always pleased to be working with the Student Engagement Team where we have an incredibly resilient and determined staff to develop accessible and relevant resources for students.
Where does your passion for working in student life and counseling stem from?
In my past, I have always been known as a collaborator and someone that enjoys connecting people with each other to develop a more integrated and supported community. In 2010, a friend and I created the West Michigan AmeriCorps Collaborative, which is still alive today. We saw an opportunity as early professionals who were working in a post-2008 world of little resources, and nonprofits were particularly struggling. Considering these difficulties, we developed a network of organizations to work together. Building a network of professionals could help folks look for jobs and strengthen and sustain the government and nonprofit leadership in Grand Rapids. This pushed me to look at ways to connect people to resources and help others build career development skills. This followed me through and after my time as a graduate student, and I saw so many great connections that could be made for students and future leaders. I was inspired to do more to help students grow into who they are and where they want to be. I want to be a change agent for others, and I want to help navigate ways of building community because change is hard when we are all on islands.
What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?
I regularly collaborate with Dr. Amy Radford-Popp, dean of student engagement, and Gayl Dotts, administrative assistant to the dean of student engagement, in addition to the rest of the Student Engagement Team. We navigate assisting students who need support. When I’m on campus, I am busy meeting with students to check in and make sure all is well in their world. I also assist with urgent needs and crisis situations.
Why do you encourage students to attend OC?
OC is a unique environment where students have the opportunity to grow authentically into who they are and who they want to become. I think our small and beautiful campus provides a better opportunity to build relationships, instead of being another number on campus. The environment encourages building community early on from the first to the last semester.
What do you look forward to in your role?
I am eager to develop group meetings on different topics that directly impact students. One-on-one meetings are integral to the work I do here on campus; however, I look forward to developing a more group-minded healing modality to meet more students and create a greater sense of community. I love working with students!
What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
I love Detroit style pizza, camping and my cats: Eleanor, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.
To learn more about support and other resources available at The University of Olivet, contact the Office of Student Engagement at gdotts@uolivet.edu or 269-749-7718. Each week, the team is hosting a number of Zoom sessions and other virtual events. They also can help connect students with mental and physical health resources. If you need additional assistance, check out this list of resources.
Learn more about The University of Olivet by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800-456-7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu.


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