Faces of Colby: counseling service’s Alissa Benziger

Sarah Warner

As society’s understanding of mental health continues to evolve, so too has the range of services offered. Here at the College, the counseling offices in the Garrison-Foster Health Center are constantly developing. Bustling with activity, they are filled with trained professionals, all willing to help students with a range of concerns. Amongst all the action, Administrative Coordinator of Counseling Services Alissa Benziger helps keep things running smoothly so Mules can get the support they need.

Before coming to Colby in 2015, Benziger had worked various health-oriented jobs, serving in administration at a massage and acupuncture center and then as a behavioral health professional for children. It was this interest in health and administration that she says drew her to Colby.

“I’ve always been quite good at managing things and juggling schedules. I also have an interest in health from different standpoints-–not necessarily traditional medicine but Eastern medicine, mental health, things like that,” Benzinger said in an interview with the Echo, “They all go hand in hand. It’s a holistic process.”

This enthusiasm for her work helps her stay focused in her position at Colby.

“As the administrative coordinator, I wear a lot of different hats. I am responsible for scheduling everything — both scheduling students’ appointments with us and the schedules of the counselors, especially those of the director Eric Johnson. I also handle the business side of things–budget, finances, orders, things like that–and just generally making sure everything is running smoothly, which has a lot of different elements from day to day. No two days are alike.”

Despite the rigor of her position, Benziger says the community at Colby makes the work worth it. “I love the community. I love being able to interact with so many different types of people, the people we work with as colleagues and also the students. I just like seeing what everyone is up to because there’s so many interesting things happening on campus. Also, just the ideas that everyone has. It really makes you look at things from a different perspective.”

Beyond her love for the community, Benziger also expressed her love for Maine. A Mansfield, Mass native, Benziger’s family often spent summers in Belgrade, instilling in her a passion for the Maine wilderness that she carries with her today. She particularly enjoys walking in the Arboretum, which she describes as “a mini vacation”.

“There’s a certain attraction in the proximity to nature, I think, in feeling like you’re a million miles away when you’re still right there in Waterville. It’s all just beautiful–even the winters, though they can be intense.”

In between work and walks in the woods, Benziger also finds time to dabble in art. At home, she enjoys painting and making mixed media sculpture, and she has been a part of the Colby Pottery Club for over two years now as a self-described “amateur” trying to master the wheel. There’s one piece of pottery in particular, though, that she is especially proud of.

“Recently I made a bowl with a spoon rest. It started off as a small bowl, but then a little chip came off the side and I was able to reshape it into a perfect indentation for a spoon to lay in. I’m quite proud of myself for that one. It was good for me because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so when those mistakes do happen and I have to reroute myself. It is so helpful. I am trying to learn that just because something doesn’t go the way you planned or originally intended doesn’t mean that it’s not perfect in its own way.”

This philosophy of learning to not only live with your mistakes but love them is one Benziger wants Colby students to understand, too.

“I want to tell Colby students to remember to breathe. Ask for help when you need it. And don’t take life so seriously. Look for the humor in everything. Life goes on, and things get better. Like I was saying with the pottery, something you think could be a mistake or setback now could actually turn out to be even better than you intended.”