The Mario and Alma Pastega Sta Excellence Award honors a classified or administrative staff member who demonstrates exceptional service to the university. Once nominees are received, a screening committee submits a list of finalists to the president, who then chooses the recipient.
Creative Arts Facilities and Program Coordinator Jeanie Stuntzner insists that she uses her undergraduate degree and college experience every day in her current job, even though she graduated—ahem—a few decades ago. This year’s Mario and Alma Pastega Sta Excellence Award winner got her bachelor’s in literature and rhetoric with an emphasis in poetry from the State University of New York at Binghamton.
“Something like literature, you keep it your whole life,” she said. “It just makes your brain function on a higher level, so it never goes away. It’s not something you study because you want to get a wonderful bank job. It’s something you study because you care about it and you’re passionate about it.”
It’s not just the communication skills she gained in college that she relies upon. It’s also her personal experience as a low-income, first-generation college student. Her history allows her to connect with the hard-working students who are attracted to WOU and to help them grow in confidence while they are here.
“I understand what it’s like to be a first-generation, low-income student,” she said. “I understand that this is a life-changing thing, and it’s hard to get through sometimes. ere are a lot of minefields to navigate. In my own experience, I kind of felt like a thief in the temple because I didn’t have a lot of prep going into it. I don’t want any of our students to feel like that. I want these guys to know they are entitled to the best education they can get.”
After Stuntzner graduated SUNY-Binghamton, she was looking for adventure. She worked a short time as a TV listings editor—“I mislisted Wheel of Fortune in Tulsa, Okla., and I thought the city was going to burn down.”—before heading to Portland with $300 in her pocket.
She found work at University of Portland in the library, then moved to the registrar’s office at Portland State. That’s where she met her husband. “He was a post-bac student at Portland State. He was getting his degree in architecture,” she said.
She did a stint at the University of Oregon’s Knight Library and worked for the state before starting at WOU in 2013. Her first job was in the natural science division. A few years later, the program coordinator position for creative arts came open.
“It was a chance for a promotion for me, and it felt like a perfect t,” Stuntzner explained. “But it was hard to leave natural science.”
Stuntzner loves working with students every day, and she strives to help them with bigger-picture life skills.
“Western students are my favorites because they are hard- working students who own their experience. I’m constantly impressed by them,” she said. “I make sure if they work for me that I get them skills that can go on their résumé, to really give them a leg up in the job market because that’s important.”
She also reaps kudos from the sta and faculty in the department, though she downplays the recognition.
“I am who I am, really,” she said. “Luckily, I bring a lot of experience with me so I can move through the different areas of what I have to do with a relative amount of confidence. People can come to me with all kinds of weird things because I’ve done all kinds of weird things, so I know how to handle all kinds of weird things.”
As much as she strives to make her coworkers happy, she really goes above and beyond for WOU students, helping them grow and succeed in whatever way possible.
“I want them to be proud of themselves and confident in their achievements,” she said. “They can move through life because they are ahead of the game. (I’d advise them to) just enjoy yourself and be happy to be in the world and move around in it. They will be successful. Or happy. Or both.”