by Cassandra Mickens
Whenever Lori Stewart needs a shot in the arm during a stressful work week, she reaches for a stash of thank-you cards stowed in her desk and reads them one by one.
As Jackson State University’s associate director of Campus Life, Stewart is both a mentor and friend to students. She’s the big sister and the parent; the cheerleader and the enforcer. No matter the role, it’s clear Stewart has won over one of the toughest crowds known to man – college kids.
An anonymous email sent to this reporter reads: “Wanna meet Superwoman? Allow me to introduce you to Ms. Stewart. … She finds time to attend church regularly, cook dinners and host social gatherings at her home, spend time with her father, two nephews Cameron and Kendall, and mentor young women and men OUTSIDE of her career description, donate money, feed the homeless, save the at-risk and bake cookies.”
The remarks left Stewart a little misty-eyed. She’s honored and humbled.
“I’m a firm believer in helping someone realize their potential,” Stewart said. “That is what keeps me going.”
Always ready to lend an ear to students, Stewart is following the example set by her parents, both educators who taught a combined 67 years. She steered clear of the education track at first. The Murrah High School graduate earned her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from JSU in 1999 followed by a master’s in guidance counseling in 2004.
Stewart has served her alma mater for the past 11 years in various student life roles.
Working under the umbrella of JSU’s Center for Student Leadership & Involvement, Stewart is adviser to the campus National Pan-Hellenic Council, the coordinating body of historically black fraternities and sororities. She is also adviser to reigning Miss JSU Mea Ashley and the Queens Court. Stewart herself was crowned Miss JSU in 1999.
During her reign, Stewart realized the impact of being a role model to young girls. She kept busy last week coordinating “A Day Out with Miss JSU,” an opportunity for middle and high school students to spend time with Ashley and discuss topics such as peer pressure, self-esteem, goal setting and fitness and nutrition.
As a child, Stewart always looked up to Miss JSU. She even wore tiaras to home football games, declaring to her parents she’d wear the crown one day.
Today, Stewart continues to inspire young girls to dream big. And despite having a jam-packed schedule, she hopes to start her own mentoring program.
“I want to make a difference and teach our young women about life,” Stewart said. “I want to teach them how to be a better lady, how to be a better you.”