Faces of Colby: Robin Shafer, Health Center nurse

Robin Shafer is a nurse in Colby’s Garrison-Foster Health Center, where she has both served and cared for the students of the College for 21 years. 

In an interview with the Echo, Shafer explained that she was born and raised in Puerto Rico and Spanish was her first language. Her father’s accounting job brought her and her four older siblings to the island, but at the age of twelve, she returned to the United States and lived in Oak Grove, Maine before attending the Taft School in Connecticut. 

Shafer then pursued a liberal arts education at Pomona College in California. Upon graduation, she returned to Maine where she worked as a substance abuse counselor, and through this important work discovered that she wanted to pursue nursing. This led her to continue her education at the University of Maine School of Nursing.

Upon completing  her studies, Shafer worked down the street from the College at Maine General Medical Center, where she worked in a wide range of roles and departments. 

During this time, Shafer began working part-time as a nurse at Garrison-Foster, a role in which she expanded in the years to come. Shafer regaled with stories of when the health center was open 24/7, with six overnight beds and a much larger staff. She recalled that there was “a lot more laundry back then,” and although the College has since changed the direction of the health center, they are still among the few of the NESCAC health centers open on the weekends. 

Shafer spoke fondly of her time at the College, saying that her relationships with students are very meaningful to her.

Shafer passionately described her interests,  mentioning the garden in her backyard. She is a cultivator of much more than parsley and thyme however, as she has an ability to bring out the best in the people around her, using tough love and a self-described “old school” style. Never afraid to speak the truth, her directness is refreshing. She discovered through her gardening that “those seeds only grow as badly as you want them to grow,” Shafer said. 

When asked about how she manages gardening with Maine’s unpredictable seasons, Shafer said that it has instilled a “sense of gratitude” for whatever viable weather she does receive.

Anyone who has received an email from Shafer will see that her email signature includes this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” Perseverance seems to have been a central theme throughout Shafer’s life. 

When her son was born, he became ill. Instead of allowing her son to suffer, she decided to take things into her own hands. A long time interest in alternative medicine and homeopathic therapy led her to seek out a craniosacral therapist, whose treatments were immediately effective. Her son fully recovered and through the process she became emboldened to pursue craniosacral therapy as a career. 

After completing the three-year certification process, Shafer now has a biodynamic cranial sacral practice located above Holy Cannoli in downtown Waterville. She uses gentle manipulation to restore balance in the body, with her “work with what’s working in your body” philosophy

Shafer clearly keeps herself busy, yet she still has time for arts, an integral part of her life. She believes that the “arts will save the world.” 

When she was younger, she was a talented singer as well as a proficient guitarist. She loves all types of music, though she disclosed that she thinks some of the best music was created in the 60s and 70s. Her favorite artists include Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, with her favorite bluesman being Muddy Waters. Of recent musicians, she recommends the Punch Bros, a bluegrass/classical fusion quintet. 

She has recently read Where the Crawdad Sings and The Underground Railroad, both of which she highly praised. Her interest in literature ranges from Herman Hess to books about alternative medicine and quantum physics.

Shafer said that if there’s one truth, it is the importance of being present in the moment.

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