In the Spirit of Service
"You can always tell when she's been out with kids because she comes in and her hands are usually green because she's been playing with who knows what or they are covered in magic marker," says Laura Marusa about her friend Jennifer Beisler, more commonly known across campus as Jen. For the past two years, Jen has served as a leader of a Harrisonburg Girl Scout troop. Laura described Jen's enthusiasm about the troop by saying, "She comes into work excited about camping trips, making sit-upons, crafts and Girl Scout cookie sales. She rushes from meetings on campus to get to her troop's activities. She really cares genuinely about those girls." Jen also participates in the tutoring program for the area elementary schools. She has served as the elementary education coordinator for the Center for Service-Learning for over two years.
And as if being a Girl Scout troop leader wasn't enough, over the past four years Jen has been active in organizations such as Hall Council, Habitat for Humanity and Alternative Spring Break. Plus there's studying, hanging out with friends, playing soccer, enjoying the outdoors or even planning trips to Europe and Mardi Gras. But her acknowledged passions are children and community service. A friend and colleague, Laura Marusa, put it best by saying, "It is just the way she is, the way she lives her life. She does a ton and manages it perfectly. What is most amazing to me is how she is so balanced and together."
Working with people and the community is Jen's other love. Through her employment at the Center for Service-Learning, Jen has positively influenced her advisors, co-workers, clients and those in need with her efforts. The Associate Director of CSL, Rich Harris, contributes, "Here she accepts each person as an individual and helps them discover both their strengths and weaknesses. She is supportive and understanding to encourage people to grow personally and challenge themselves." Her official duties as the Special Projects Coordinator for CSL include matching people with one-time community service events and maintaining the Special Project's web page.
Through CSL, Jen has made one of her dreams into a reality. She was the force behind the Freshmen Service Trip that is now part of the incoming student orientation program. Jen had the idea to have a group of incoming freshmen engage in a service project before they begin classes as a way of building service into their lifestyles and to help perpetuate a sense of belonging and friendship. She spent countless hours and amounts of energy meeting with administrators, developing a budget, finding service partners and bringing the program into reality. All of her hardwork and perseverance eventually paid off, and during the summer of 1999 the first Freshmen Service Trip traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia to work with Habitat for Humanity. This program has been adopted into future freshmen orientation plans, and as Rich Harris states, "Will be a lasting impact of Jen long after she leaves JMU."
"I have really enjoyed working with Jen, especially her quiet leadership," says Rich Harris. "She really doesn't speak a whole lot in group settings, but when she does you could her a pin drop because everyone listens to what she has to say."
Jen's enthusiasm, dedication and genuine spirit have, does, and will continue to influence the JMU community in positive ways. Despite the numerous disappoints, stressful situations, and negative outside pressures she has had to face over the past four years, she feels that it has all been worth it in the end. She is proud to be part of the Dukes' traditions and loves the overall spirit of the university. As she personally stated, "I love JMU. I enjoy the people, the beautiful campus, hangin' out on the Quad on beautiful days, eating at D-Hall and the general nice feelings I get being apart of it. I am sad about eventually leaving, but will greatly cherish all the fond memories I have made being here."
Colleague Kara Leppert explains, "It is amazing to talk to her about her experiences because she loves people and she loves the kids she works with. She genuinely loves people."