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Her Words Make a Difference

Faculty
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Crystal Senter-Brown ’12, G’14 has been taking pen to paper for years and is the author of many works, including her most recent Gabby Gives Back, a book for young people that revolves around the themes of kindness and forgiveness. A professor in the WELL (Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders Program) and director of employee relations at Bay Path University, Senter-Brown was recently selected as a Businesswest Difference Maker for 2018. With this recognition, she joins a remarkable group of people, including President Carol A. Leary, who, in the words of the award, are “…through their hard work improving the quality of life of everyone in this region…are motivating others to understand that they, too, can make a difference.” 

Crystal Senter-Brown’s main message as part of her acceptance speech for the Difference Maker Award drew on her own experiences: “We all have a way to help others. You don’t need to have a lot of money. And even if you don’t, you can always use kindness.” 

A native of Tennessee, Senter-Brown’s father was a Baptist preacher and she was surrounded by a supportive, spiritual community that encouraged giving and volunteering. As a young girl growing up, she was fortunate to have strong female role models in her life who further influenced her belief in giving back: her mother, grandmother, and aunt.  

In fact, Senter-Brown shared a story about her Aunt Ella, and her humble generosity. In the summer, Senter-Brown’s Aunt Ella would take her and her brother to the local K-Mart and let them pick out their school supplies for the coming year. They would put them in the shopping cart and take it not to the checkout area, but to the back of the store to the layaway department. Her aunt was a cleaning lady and did not make a lot of money, but she wanted to help out Senter-Brown’s family. Each week her aunt would slowly pay off the cost. By the first day of school, Senter-Brown and her brother would have the school supplies they needed. It was an incredible lesson in how to pay it forward. 

That lesson, and similar ones, became an integral part of Senter-Brown’s life, weaving its way into her work, volunteering, and her writing. A budding poet at the age of five, she is now an author whose children’s books focus on the themes of kindness and forgiveness and have resonated with parents and teachers. Two of her books, Gabby Saturday and Gabby Gives Back (both illustrated by her mother!), have as the central character a young girl who discovers the benefits of helping others. One might say it’s teaching empowerment and philanthropy at the same time. 

A faculty member in the WELL (Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders) program, those tenets are also part of Senter-Brown’s “Leadership in Practice” capstone class. As she states with her profile interview with Businesswest, “My class pushes people out of their comfort zone because they think they don’t have time for this because they are raising families, or they just don’t have an interest in it…while some students enter the class unconvinced of their need to become involved in the community. Few if any of them leave it feeling the same way.” 

Spoken like the true difference maker that she is.