Colleen Suitt points to a hammer covered in velvet. “That’s my grace and truth hammer,” she says. “I remind students that the truth may be hard, but it’s covered in the softness of grace.”
The student service advisor for Colorado Christian University’s College of Adult and Graduate Studies works with adult students behind the scenes. “There’s always a back and forth with me in the middle,” she explains of her role. “It’s not easy for advisors. We represent the student and we represent CCU. I have to give students news about how we expect things to be done, but on the other hand I am their advocate.”
Anyone who knows what it is to be “in the middle” can empathize with her job. Yet, Colleen has mastered the art of showing grace and truth – and of being in the middle. In fact, this fall she was nominated by one of her students for a Better Business Bureau Torch Award, given to an outstanding individual who demonstrates integrity.
Originally, she confesses, she thought it was a nice honor to be nominated but didn’t think too much of it. It wasn’t until she spoke to someone from the Better Business Bureau and realized that not only was she nominated, but she was one of the three finalists, that she saw the significance of it.
The three finalists attended an awards banquet at the Hyatt Regency downtown. Colleen arrived with her husband, and had no expectations of winning. “I didn’t even prepare an acceptance speech,” she says. “If I won, I just wanted to give credit to CCU, and to God.”
While businesses collected awards for their ethical practices, Colleen waited. And, when the award for the Employee of Integrity came up, she had her “Oscar” moment. She was announced as the winner.
“I went up there and gave a very short speech!” she laughs. “But I was intent on communicating that we take our middle name very seriously, and our ethics come from the Bible and Jesus Christ. I also told the audience that I have the privilege of helping students realize their dreams.”
It’s the aspect of helping students realize their dreams that Suitt stresses. “It’s so important in the advising role to keep the goal in view. Bad news and setbacks are simply potholes. The dream is still there, and I get to help with that.”
Dina Eledge – the student who nominated Colleen – agrees precisely. “It’s not easy going back to school as an adult student balancing career and family obligations," she says. "I feel very strongly that Colleen's guidance over the years in helping me stay on track academically is one of the reasons I finished my degree requirements.”
For Suitt, helping students stay on track to realizing their dreams means taking a middle road of grace and truth. And now, next to her velvet hammer, is a glass trophy that further underscores her integrity and commitment.