By Anand Venigalla
Mary Kathryn Breen, called Kate, the secretary for the English, philosophy and foreign languages department in the Winnick Mansion, is an unsung hero dedicated to helping students.
“Usually I wear the hat of problem solver,” she said. She learned this skill through her life and work, and through parenting. “Here, I think all the staff is finding solutions to help the students and faculty achieve their [academic] goals,” she said. “I always try to present a positive face of the department to anyone who comes in. With Dr. Lutz, we do a lot of outreach to other disciplines and departments so we can help connect students.”
Breen has held several jobs, in addition to staying at home for 10 years when her children were younger. “Immediately prior to working here at Post, I was a library clerk on the Brentwood campus,” she said. Breen began working for the university in 2006 while pursuing her masters in library science. In June 2012, she came to assist Dr. Lutz and the faculty in the English department.
Breen loves her job because she finds a lot of variety in her work day and admires the people she interacts with. “Every day is different and presents new challenges to assist people and to learn new software,” she said. The English department has been in the Winnick House approximately three years. Prior to that, the department was in Humanities. “A big part of my job has been to facilitate the move of faculty, facilitate set-up of the spaces in the Winnick House, so that all the faculty offices run well, and that the main office runs well.” Her work includes accounting for equipment and supplies as well.
Breen believes in the value of communication, something she has developed while working with Dr. Lutz. “We have to help keep all parties informed; if there are student issues with the course, the professors have to know,” she said.
Breen finds what she sees and what others may not notice at first sight valuable. “As a small liberal arts university, we offer so much to the students,” she said. “So I always try to make students aware of additional opportunities to expand their experience.”
She wishes there was a scavenger hunt for every first-year student so that they can find a different, and perhaps less-frequented area or department, on campus. “Some of my favorite spots are the gardens that Marjorie Merriweather Post plant[ed], the Reference Commons in the Library, and one of my favorite artifacts is the large black-and-white 1955 aerial photograph of Long Island, which is found in the Life Sciences hallway,” she shared. “I think some of these things may be missed by students.” Breen is also fond of the architectural details, history, and visual backdrops throughout the campus.
Breen’s office is in the Winnick Mansion, room 210. Her office has an open invitation to students to “come and visit any time.”