This is the third in a series of stories heralding the many great people of the University of Findlay and the ways they support our mission of preparing students for meaningful lives and productive careers.
The Dalai Lama said that it is very important to generate a good attitude and a good heart as much as possible; that it is with kindness and a little bit of humility that we can make the world a better place. It’s not difficult to find folks with an abundance of this kind of goodness on University of Findlay’s campus. Sometimes, though, they’re behind the scenes where they prefer to be, and such is the case for UF’s Mazza Museum’s museum/education/volunteer coordinator, Heather Sensel.
Sensel, a native of Findlay, is one of those people who derives joy more from watching those she gently guides achieve success and happiness, rather than from her own. This is true for the many groups of people, young and old, she has led through tours of the Museum, an essential part of her job, and especially so for the more than one hundred volunteers she coordinates to help with events like Mazza’s Funday Sunday, Young Artist Workshop, Tales for Tots, and Children’s Book Week/Day, among others that pop up. She credits these volunteers who, like her, have a passion for children and art with being the glue that holds everything together.
The path that Sensel took to get to her current position was a winding one, and that makes her appreciate the opportunity even more. She paid her own way through most of college at Bowling Green State University, earning a bachelor’s degree and certification to teach art, and, finding herself in need of immediate employment after graduating, took a job managing several fitness clubs in Ohio, which meant she was on the road constantly and “more or less living in hotels,” she said. Being newly married to a husband whose job kept him traveling for much of the week as well, she said, was taxing, but rewarding. After a while, Sensel, feeling around in her giving heart to find a response to some family needs, began entertaining an idea that her sister came up with. “My sister suggested we buy something” she said, “and I thought, you know, as long as it’s artsy.” So, her sister’s husband put up the money to buy what would become Decorations Plus in Findlay. She, her two sisters and their mother ran the party shop with essentials for everything from weddings to retirement parties, and that’s the life the family led for twenty-plus years. “I think all my family members worked there because they thought everyone else in the family needed them to,” she continued. “That’s just how we roll. It was great. Fast-paced, pretty much non-stop when we started to get successful. I’m grateful for that part of my life.”
During that time, though, in the midst of the constant work and raising a family of her own (Sensel and her husband of twenty-six years, Rob, have three college-aged children, two daughters and a son), she was aware of the Mazza Museum and had a quiet gnawing in the back of her mind – almost a certain sense of belonging – that told her it was a wonderful place, one where she could feel herself needing to be. She knew Mazza director Ben Sapp and he had even once asked her if she would consider applying for a position at Mazza. “My family had their ailments, my kids were young and going to school, and we were so busy, I was basically living at the store. It just wasn’t the right time,” she explained.
The time did finally come, though, and she was hired at the Museum as its administrative assistant; however not for very long. There was a retirement less than a year after she arrived, at which point, she applied for and was moved to the position she currently holds. “It was scary and I was nervous,” she confessed. “But I like to put everything forward and see what comes out – that’s me. It’s been a blessing ever since. It got me back to my art roots with kids – there’s nothing better.”
And there’s also nothing better, according to Sensel, than the volunteers with whom she shares a special bond, and the place in which she gets to realize that bond. “It’s such a blessing to get to know each of [the volunteers]. They are the brightest light. They create this job,” she said. “I honestly think for some weird reason I’m supposed to be at University of Findlay and the Museum. Where else could I use everything God has taught me in my life and in such a positive way? It’s such a valuable resource right here on campus, and I cannot believe I get to be a small part of that every day.”