Tag Archives: Debbie Heida

Equestrian Commencement

COMMENCEMENT ROUNDUP: Chief of Staff Debbie Heida, center, presides over a special graduation ceremony for equestrian seniors Allie Robertson, left, and Sarah Cooper. The equestrian team was in Syracuse, N.Y., the weekend of spring commencement competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships.

Allie Robertson

Allie Robertson is all smiles after winning her second national championship as a member of Berry’s equestrian team. Photo courtesy of EQ Media.

Most students process into commencement to the strains of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, but it’s not usually played on an iPhone. Then again, graduation was anything but typical for Allie Robertson and Sarah Cooper.

As members of Berry’s varsity equestrian team, Robertson and Cooper found themselves in Syracuse, N.Y., the first weekend in May competing in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) National Championships.

Robertson walked with her Berry classmates before flying to New York for two events the following day. She ultimately won an individual national championship in Novice Western Horsemanship, her second national title at Berry, to pace a sixth-place team finish.

“It was kind of a whirlwind weekend,” she said. “I didn’t really have time to process that I had just graduated college and was going to nationals.”

Cooper’s competition schedule prevented her from walking with Robertson and the rest of her class, so Chief of Staff Debbie Heida brought graduation to her, flying to Syracuse once Berry’s commencement concluded to preside over a miniature ceremony for both equestrian seniors.

“It’s a privilege to go and be part of their nationals experience,” Heida said, adding that it means a lot to her to be able to “celebrate with someone the end of a four-year academic career.”

At the ceremony, which was held in a conference room at the event center, the students processed into the room as they would at a typical graduation.

“We had caps and gowns on top and boots and spurs on the bottom half, which was so perfect for us,” Cooper said. “It really made up for the sadness of missing the real graduation. It was the perfect way to wrap up nationals and my Berry College career.”

By student writer Cassie LaJeunesse

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Debbie Heida PortraitMerriam-Webster defines “pillar” as “a supporting, integral or upstanding member or part,” as in “a pillar of society.” Such words aptly describe Debbie Heida, who this fall was named a “Pillar of the Profession” by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in recognition of her work on behalf of students and higher education.

Heida has been a member of Berry’s leadership team for 14 years, beginning with her appointment as dean of students and vice president of student affairs in 2004. This year, she left that role to serve as chief of staff to President Steve Briggs.

“In her 14 years at Berry, Debbie has managed a weighty portfolio of responsibilities and still, to her credit, she is always among the first to run toward a new problem or reach out to offer help when a colleague has a need,” Briggs said. “She is creative and resourceful and therefore one of the people I turn to first for a fresh perspective. She was instrumental in leading the planning effort when Berry joined Division III of the NCAA, and she worked determinedly for several years to bring the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program to Berry and ensure a successful transition.”

Assisting in the nomination process was former SGA President Paton Roden (15C), now second-year experience coordinator at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“I found my passion at Berry through my student involvement and leadership positions on campus and followed this into my current career in higher education,” Roden said. “I did all of this with the help of Debbie Heida. She is very deserving of this award based on her commitment and involvement.”

Photo by student Matthew McConnell

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Debbie Heida, Lindsey Taylor

Debbie Heida, left, and Lindsey Taylor

The new academic year brought new responsibilities for longtime administrators Debbie Heida and Lindsey Taylor. Heida is Berry’s new chief of staff, succeeding the retired Dr. Gary Waters (80C, 89G), while Taylor has moved into Heida’s former role as vice president of student affairs and dean of students. Both women have served Berry students with distinction for more than a decade, Heida since 2004 and Taylor since 2005.

Among other duties, Heida is responsibile for facilitating development of a new Center for Personal and Professional Success, a project central to Berry’s goal of enhancing the intentionality of each student’s Berry experience. She also continues to oversee athletics, hospitality and events, Oak Hill and The Martha Berry Museum, and Historic Berry. Taylor’s new responsibilities include residence life, student activities, wellness and counseling, and recreation; she is also the college’s Title IX coordinator. Read more.

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Governor's Honors Program

Siddarth Shrivastava makes an adjustment to a “mine finder” he helped build in HackBerry Lab as part of the Governor’s Honors Program. The device is meant to minimize injuries and deaths from landmines left from wars.

A busy summer on the world’s largest campus was highlighted by Berry’s debut as the new host site for the prestigious Governor’s Honors Program. More than 650 of Georgia’s top high school juniors and seniors – accompanied by nearly 100 GHP faculty and staff members – flowed through the Gate of Opportunity in late June to begin the four-week residential experience.

During their stay, participants attended classes in specific areas of study, showcased their artistic talents in various campus venues, and joined Berry students and staff for a night of service benefiting the local community.

“The Governor’s Honors Program aligns with Berry’s commitment to academic excellence,” said Debbie Heida, dean of students and vice president for student affairs. “It was a great opportunity to share the Berry experience with these incredibly talented high school students. I hope to see some of them back at Berry for a full four-year experience.”

The program will return to Berry in 2018.

The arrival of the GHP students for a new Berry tradition came on the heels of a rite of passage familiar to decades of alumni – Student Orientation Advising and Registration (SOAR) – which this year provided more than 500 incoming students with their first taste of Berry life.

Adding to the buzz of GHP and SOAR was a steady stream of summer camps – more than 45 in all – that drew approximately 2,000 participants ages 5-18 for a wide variety of sports and activities.

Related News Coverage: Student enjoys “humbling” experience in GHP

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Williams Field Dedication

From left, softball coach Cori Thiermann, Dean of Students Debbie Heida, Board of Trustees Chair Barry Griswell (71C) and President Steve Briggs join Kay and Bob (62H) Williams at the official ribbon-cutting for Kay Williams Field.

Four straight wins over top-ranked opponents, a milestone 200th victory for head coach Cori Thiermann and a field dedication honoring one of their biggest fans highlighted a program-best 13-0 start for Berry’s softball Vikings.

The Feb. 18 dedication of Kay Williams Field coincided with a doubleheader sweep of arch-rival Emory University. A pregame ceremony honored Kay Williams’ longtime support of Berry’s student-athletes and the institution as a whole. Husband Bob Williams (62H) joined her for the dedication, along with Board of Trustees Chair Barry Griswell (71C) and other Berry leaders.

The wins over Emory – coming on the heels of a similarly impressive sweep of Texas Lutheran – propelled Berry to a top-5 national ranking. In less than a month of action, three members of the team – Brittany Tuttle, Sarah Moore and Marie Collop – have earned National Player of the Week honors from either Fastpitch News or the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.

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GHP LogoThe Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has selected Berry as the new site for Georgia’s prestigious Governor’s Honors Program. Beginning in 2017, Berry will welcome 650 of the state’s best and brightest high school students for a four-week summer residential program featuring classes in a wide variety of fields.

“We are thrilled to host the Governor’s Honors Program,” said Berry President Steve Briggs. “Berry’s campus is an ideal setting for a residential program that offers innovative and engaging experiences for Georgia’s most talented students. We expect the GHP students to make the most of this amazing place and its academic, artistic and recreational opportunities. What a great way for them to test-drive what college can be.”

Berry was chosen from a group of colleges and universities across the state that expressed interest in hosting the honors program. In its official announcement, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement noted Berry’s ability to provide appropriate academic and residential space, as well as a strong partnership and 21st-century resources to support the continued advancement of the program.

“Our specialty is a great residential academic community, and that fits with the Governor’s Honors Program,” said Debbie Heida, Berry’s vice president for student affairs. “We’ll treat these students as our own students.”

Full press release.

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Scott Colley PortraitA voice from Berry’s past offered insight for the future during the largest spring commencement ceremony in college history. Addressing approximately 470 graduates and a huge crowd of family and friends gathered on the Evans Hall lawn, former president and honorary alumnus J. Scott Colley praised Berry’s current leadership and stressed the continuing relevance of the college’s “head, heart and hands” approach to education in today’s uncertain times.

Harking back to his own upbringing in the shadow of World War II, the Cold War and segregation in his native Virginia, Colley noted, “The world was wobbling in those days, and you know what? It wobbles still. Moments of crisis and threat are the very times to use our brains and to employ our learning. Such times are hardly occasions for us to take leave of our senses. … My hope is that our graduates will employ what they’ve already learned at Berry in both the near and long terms as they respond to the obligations of citizenship.”

During his visit, Berry’s seventh president was honored with the unveiling of a portrait of him standing in the Ford Archway that will hang in Memorial Library. He also learned that a scholarship has been endowed in his name by three Berry vice presidents he mentored during his presidency – Debbie Heida, Bettyann O’Neill and Dr. Kathy Richardson.

Additional coverage: Commencement photo gallery

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One of our favorite new traditions – the forming of the “B” by first-year students – heralded the arrival of fall semester on the Berry campus. More than 600 new faces flowed through the Gate of Opportunity for the Aug. 24 kickoff to the 2015-16 academic year, among them approximately 575 freshmen.

Fully one-third of the new students hail from outside Georgia. Representing more than 30 states and 12 foreign countries, these students reflect Berry’s growing regional and national stature.

While final numbers won’t be available for several weeks, preliminary statistics cited by Dean of Students Debbie Heida during opening convocation are impressive, to say the least.

Here are some of the highlights:

38 percent of the new arrivals graduated in the top 25 percent of their high school classes, including seven valedictorians and nine salutatorians

51 percent have been recognized for extraordinary academic achievement

60 percent have had at least one leadership experience, including seven student council presidents

68 percent have been involved in a community service activity

31 percent held jobs during high school

In addition, 65 of the new arrivals have family members who attended Berry

Please join us in welcoming all the newcomers to the Berry family. You’ll be hearing much more about them in the coming years.

Around Berry: Welcome new Vikings

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Todd BrooksTodd Brooks has returned to Berry as athletic director after two years at Virginia’s Christopher Newport University. He succeeds Dr. Tom Hart, who stepped down in May.

“Todd Brooks’ return to Berry is our good fortune,” said Debbie Heida, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “Todd helped build our current athletic program, and his experience at Christopher Newport enhances the work he will do in leading our program to greater heights. I am pleased to welcome Todd back to Berry and to Rome.”

Brooks’ previous tenure as Berry athletic director (1998 to 2013) was highlighted by significant growth for the program, including the addition of numerous sports, completion of the Steven J. Cage Athletic and Recreation Center, transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III, and creation of the Southern Athletic Association. Twice during that time he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Southern States Athletic Conference. He is also a past recipient of Berry’s Martindale Award of Distinction, one of the college’s most prestigious faculty/staff honors.

Read more.

Photo by student Lauren Neumann

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