Meet the Advisors
Critical thinking and education have both played significant roles in Agatha O'Brien-Gayes' life. Her father inspired these ideas in her from her childhood in New England, when eating dinner with her family required involvement in a discussion of the world events of the day. "You could not come to the dinner table without being prepared," she describes. This preparation served her well for her experiences at Marymount College in New York, where she received her undergraduate degree in political science. O’Brien-Gayes describes Marymount as a “very small, all-female, Catholic school” that was completely non-conservative. Her classes centered on debate, and “no intellectual thought was off the table.” These debates made her aware of her surroundings, and she believes that her college experience as a whole “made me who I am.”
One important thing she did not learn from Marymount’s all-female population was deference to the “clichéd approaches” to gender roles. Instead of an importance on gender, O’Brien-Gayes said that what mattered was “who had the better idea.”
Taking her experiences from college, O'Brien-Gayes began working as an executive in retail after she graduated. After holding this position for several years, she moved and started her family. She then decided to go back to school and obtained a master's degree in human resource development from Webster University. With this degree, she began teaching at Coastal Carolina University.
Empowered by a depth of knowledge, her advice to students is to find wisdom whether from professors, staff or even fellow students. She said, “You never know where you will find wisdom once you start looking for it.”
Besides education, O’Brien-Gayes is passionate about art and equality. Her love for art transforms into paintings she has done over the years in her free time. She also enjoys reading and cooking. She also loves Coastal Carolina University sports and tries not to miss any home games. She also enjoys fishing, and her “claim to fame” was catching an 81-inch white marlin on a fishing trip.
Michele Varga joined University College at Coastal Carolina University in 2008. Prior to joining the Coastal family, she earned an Associate in Arts from Broome Community College, a Bachelor of Science in psychobiology from Long Island University (LIU) in South Hampton, N.Y., and a Master of Arts in social science from Binghamton University.
While attending LIU, she had the opportunity to do two things she loves–work with students in the Career Development Office and complete two experiential learning experiences: one at a wildlife rehabilitation center and the other in the Florida Everglades. Although she loved experience researching in the Everglades, Varga decided working with students was much more rewarding and required fewer mosquito bites.
Varga believes seeing your adviser, early and often, and building relationships with faculty members from your interest areas are key to achieving your goals with as little stress as possible. “Advisers are here to help you navigate the maze of college and hopefully lessen the number of obstacles that may be in your path,” she said.
When not in her office, Varga enjoys creating jewelry, quilting and the outdoors. When asked what someone would be surprised to know, she said, "I used to work on a goat farm; I miss the snow; and I am a reality television show junkie."
Leslie Barrett Brown is a native of West Virginia, transplanted in South Carolina for climate and beach therapy. When she is not on campus working with CCU students, she is spending time with her husband Thomas, son Tre (Thomas the III), and the fur kid Barry. She bleeds blue and gold Mountaineer sports, but also feels the TEAL!!!
Shannon Sarvis is a native of Conway, SC. She received her undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Management from Winthrop University, and her Graduate degree in Human Services, with an emphasis on Military resilience counseling from Liberty University; where she is also 6 credits from completion of her MS in Professional Counseling (w/ licensure). Shannon has worked in higher education for over 15 years; with the majority of that time spent in Student Support Services as an Advisor or Academic Counselor. Ms. Sarvis is mother to Christopher (24), Bryson (18), and Brittany (12) Sarvis. She is thrilled to be a part of the CCU Chanticleer family!