Sara Jayne Steen Operating Staff Service Award

Barbara “Babs” LaJeunesse, Administrative Assistant, Departments of University Studies and Undergraduate Advising

John Anderson photo.

When Barbara “Babs” LaJeunesse was seven years old, she starred as the acrobat in a local amateur circus. While her circus might not have been the “Greatest Show on Earth,” it did garner a front-page story in the local newspaper, and for LaJeunesse, it was the start of something great. “My siblings, neighborhood friends, and I staged a circus, and we raised $18.76 for the Salvation Army,” LaJeunesse recalls. “Throughout my childhood, my parents were active volunteers and with that circus and the small donation we made, I began to understand why volunteering was so important. I realized the power I had to make a difference.”

Making a difference has been a theme in LaJeunesse’s life. When Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue launched in 1985, she was an early volunteer, doing everything from home visits to organizing the group’s annual auction to ultimately serving as its president.  LaJeunesse has worked for Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics, PSU’s Festival of Trees, and the University’s Convocation and Commencement, because when she sees a need, she wants to help. “When I volunteer, I feel so fortunate to see the result of my contribution. Every organization needs those who make financial donations, but, for me, it’s about being there,” she says. “When an older dog is placed in a loving home, or a child with special needs stops in the middle of a race to wait for his friend so they can cross the finish line together, or a family moves into a new home built by a community of volunteers, I gain an unbelievable sense of connection. It’s a window into a new world that I would have missed if I hadn’t been physically present.”

Also important to LaJeunesse is her work at PSU’s University Studies and the Undergraduate Advising Center, where she also makes a difference. “At University Studies, we work one-on-one with students who haven’t yet decided on a major,” she says. “We help them find a program that fits their skills and interests so that they spend their time here immersed in courses they enjoy—and graduate on time.”

Similarly, with the Undergraduate Advising Center, LaJeunesse helps ensure that students with declared majors will meet the requirements they need for graduation. “We understand the time and money students invest in achieving this important milestone,” LaJeunesse notes. “So, the Undergraduate Advising Center is just one more resource to make sure students stay on track.”

In both cases, the chance to connect with students and see the results of their collaboration is LaJeunesse’s reward. “I love being able to check back in with the students to see how the work we’ve done—whether it’s helping a student find the right major or build a plan for their remaining semesters at PSU—has led them to become more engaged and really excel.”

The students with whom LaJeunesse has worked appreciate the chance to follow up with her as well, to make sure she knows what they’ve accomplished and where they’re going next—and to tell her how her role in their lives has made an important difference.

Donna Eason ’85







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