Antelope Intros: Janelle Jones and Christen Jamsa
Antelope Intros is a recurring GCU Today feature that introduces some of our new employees to the people around them in a way that is fun and informative. Employees are eligible to be featured in the month following their orientation.
Job title: Enrollment counselor
Job location: Peoria
What attracted you to GCU? I went to a basketball game last year while my baby sister was visiting me in Phoenix after one of my dance students, who was a student here, invited us to the game with her family. We had an absolute blast. My sister and I joined in on the support of the Lopes as if we both were students here. I was so impacted by the welcoming staff and high energy of the students that I knew this was a place I wanted to be a part of. We lost that game, but it surely didn’t ruin the experience. Actually, we were quite impressed at how mature and congratulating the Lopes team was toward the other team!
What do you do for fun and where do you find that outlet? I am a very creative person. I have been choreographing since I was 9 years old – my mom, Rhonda Liggians, was a dancer, and from the time I was a toddler I was with her at the theatre or on the set. She was in the “Thriller” video with Michael Jackson. By the time I was 12 I was her right-hand man running our church’s dance ministry. She taught the adults and I taught the teens and the children. Dance was part of our special bond. If I am not choreographing a dance, I am writing a script, working on a do-it-yourself project or making someone laugh through my improv group. I love making people laugh!! Laughter is actually my favorite sound next to music. It truly tickles my heart. That’s why I love improv. I am known to tell awful jokes on purpose just to distract someone – you can’t help but laugh because the joke was that awful!
What are you passionate about? Making sure the people I come in contact with know that they are cared for and appreciated. Other than the fact that it’s one of the most important things God has asked us to do, I believe that caring for your neighbor sets off a chain reaction that positively affects both individuals. Kindness breeds more kindness, and when you can attach a positive emotion to the memory of an action you are more likely to want to create that same euphoria for someone else. When my mother turned 50, I created her own holiday called “RashaMomma.” Each sibling surprises her with a present every day until her big surprise on her birthday. Just last year, we sent her on a scavenger hunt with clues to find her gifts that we hid around the house. The last clue led her to the garage, where my brother (who lives in New York) and I were hiding. We had not been home in two years. The look on her face, the scream, the tears of joy were all priceless!
What are your favorite places or events in the Valley that you like to visit? Performing arts centers, movie theaters and anywhere I can hear live music from a local band. I love all music – well, all except heavy metal (that’s my sister’s department; I can handle about four minutes of it before I start getting stressed out). Hip hop and salsa dominate my ears.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know: I lived in Rome for my junior year of college and loved every minute of it: the culture, the weather, my balcony with a view of Vatican City, traveling to the neighboring cities on the weekend, including taking the super fast train to Paris. It was an absolutely wonderful experience. Growing up in New York City, everything is rush rush, hurry hurry. In Italy, dinner can take up to three hours because its designed to cultivate relationships. If you love ice cream, you owe it to yourself to visit Gelateria Della Palma in Rome to get gelato at midnight. It’s like heaven in your mouth. And the art! Some of the most breathtaking paintings and sculptures I have ever seen were in Italy.
What are you most proud of? My siblings. I am the eldest of seven, and I think my little sprockets are turning out to be ah-mazing human beings. I owe my creative imagination to years of entertaining my siblings. Four of us are legit adults, and we take a siblings vacation every year. This year is New Orleans, and I am super excited because I don’t have to plan anything this time. We will take over the world as soon as the youngest graduates high school, so be prepared!
Job title: Enrollment counselor, military division
Job location: Peoria
What attracted you to GCU? The fact that it is a private university and has a specialized department for military students. I think that’s an important department for a university to have. As a veteran, I love helping other veterans and current military with their educational and life aspirations.
What do you do for fun and where do you find that outlet? Exercise in the company gym, hiking and the gym at my home. I actually exercise every morning in the gym here at Peoria before my 0900 work shift. I enjoy exercising because it’s the only “me” time I get. I’m a single mom, working full-time and raising a 2-year-old boy named Isaac, so “me” time is rare. I usually just work out alone at the gym, but my son, my dog and I hike together, too.
What are you passionate about? Veteran suicide prevention, education, my fellow military personnel and veterans. I am passionate about suicide prevention because suicide, especially within the veteran community, has greatly impacted my life. I’ve volunteered as a rape crisis counselor as well as a crisis counselor for suicidal veterans and military personnel. I care deeply for my fellow veterans and military members. I feel honored to have the opportunity to help them follow their dreams at GCU. The suicide epidemic within the veteran community, especially within the female veteran community, is staggering. An average of 22 veterans and one active duty service member commit suicide every day. By helping students focus on their goals and future, I think we can help the veteran suicide epidemic diminish.
What are your favorite places or events in the Valley that you like to visit? Cave Creek Regional Park hiking trails. I like Cave Creek Regional Park because my son, my dog and I always see animals while we are hiking. I would recommend any of the trails at the park. It’s a fun place to go on the weekends.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know: I’ve been playing guitar since I was 15. I don’t play often, but when I do it helps me relax.
What are you most proud of? My ability to overcome difficult situations. The most difficult one was when I became a single mother. I moved with my son to Arizona because I knew I couldn’t afford being a single mom in California. It was hard moving to a brand new state all alone without any family here. I started looking for work but was unsuccessful, so I started my own marketing business but was not making enough money on my own. I kept searching for work and found that GCU was hiring. After applying at GCU, I was called back for three interviews. I prayed to God that I would get hired after meeting my managers. Later that day, I received the call from HR about the managers’ decision. I was told I obtained the job and I fell to my knees and cried. I felt as though I had won the lottery. I now have the ability to financially support my son, send him to the top preschool in Phoenix and provide a stable home for both of us.