By Michael Gormley
On a mild but adequately reasonable Friday afternoon, I trekked out to meet a lady by the name of Maria Lewis at the Ammerman Campus. Despite the cloudy and rainy atmosphere outside, Lewis is a lady who brings a much needed joy to the work area no matter the outside conditions. I must admit, she manages quite a lot for being a head club secretary for the various campus activities she keeps track of. Whether it’s keeping track of club programs to managing finances while also keeping a positive attitude throughout, there is a method to her abilities to succeed. I hope to better understand this as I meet her on this day.
“Hello Michael” says Lewis, the 51-year-old club secretary at the office of campus activities, as I enter the side office where we will be conducting the interview. The room itself has a very basic charm to it, charm matched by her happy exterior as she greets me for our meeting. I can say from previous club experiences of running a club on campus that she always aims to please the people who interact with her, not only because she shows enjoyment in her work, but because she loves to be around kids (Kids, who are in reference to the young adult types who occupy the halls here).
“So tell me Maria, how did you begin to find interest in this job of yours?” I ask her as I attempt to understand her ways of managing the tasks required by also taking notes on how she presents herself. Not surprisingly, she keeps an extroverted exterior and passion while telling her story and experiences.
“Well, I started my love as a secretary back in late 1979 through 1980, she says. “I learned a lot of skills regarding business management and a love for being around kids that helped me find a career that could take me places”. She notes that her love for kids also comes from what she learned from her mother, who worked at home for many years. Roughly around this time in the 80’s, she began work as a secretary for the Looney Toon division of Warner Brothers. I note that it must have been interesting to go from working as a school secretary to a figure managing the affairs of some big corporation, but she stays modest by stating, “Going from managing secretary work at a school to major corporation secretary work was difficult, but not as overwhelming as one might expect”.
We continue to speak about her adventures that led to this position. Surprisingly, she left her job at Warner Brothers to manage being a mother to her kids’ full time (partially because her current job was creating difficulties with her family life). Still, the decision to quit doesn’t sound like the wisest from a business perspective, but she helped me see that “putting a focus on her family” was the better decision. For 20 years, she found miscellaneous work involving “various typing jobs that came my way” that helped her family financially. Through that time, she slowly continued with her life and began responsibilities relating to her motherly duties.
Once 2010 came along, Lewis mentions how she began to see advertisements for secretary positions at Ammerman. The position in particular that caught her interest with that of being a secretary for the club program. I see from references that I gathered on her that she lives near the campus. To take on the position, she took a civil service test for the job and subsequently did very well on the final score. Lewis had begun to feel another moment of excitement from this. Now she essentially could be a mother, work as a secretary, and be in close vicinity to her family all without having to make major sacrifices.
While on the topic of her success at this current livelihood, I had a discussion with two of her co-workers to get a better feel for her successes around the office. The first lady, Josephine Fleming, works as a student employee and events coordinator for the Selden campus.
“Maria is someone who can get her job done in an efficient and reasonable manner for the responsibilities required in this position” Fleming said. I should note that her presence is similar to Maria’s, but she seems to be a bit sterner in her words and a tiny bit less extroverted in comparison. While I did not catch her age, I would note that she looks more like a veteran in the work she does, which focuses primarily on hiring students for job positions related to what’s offered in the campus activities office. In my interview with her, she mentions that “whenever clubs need help with getting certain materials for club meetings, Maria will ask me for guidance.” I presume this is because Lewis and Fleming work hand in hand with assistance regarding the varying duties on campus. The students hired provide what’s necessary for the tasks by physical work or planning / managing events in assisted guidance from the main secretarial staff. For any potential students looking for work, this can lead to interesting results that would be helpful in the future job markets.
While Fleming’s work with Lewis can be indirect in some ways, they don’t work side by side like she does with Mary Zoebelien, a part-time secretary who works next to Lewis on Monday through Wednesday. My discussion with Zoebelien took place near her desk / office and she also had a veteran appeal to her similar to Fleming (although she was notably taller). Since both she and Lewis have their desks by the front entrance, students who come by often see their enthusiastic faces first. Both Lewis and Zoebelien state in a similar fashion that they “provide a complementary cycle of work that keeps all the club activities in check.” This, along with their usual secretarial duties, helps define the relationship these two have with their jobs.
Reaching the end of my day at the campus activities office, I sense a feeling of community that I noticed among the faculty and staff. While I did not get to interact with any students running any particular clubs, I myself run a club that can help back up my assessments of this interview in regards to the interactions one may have with the staff. Anyone reading this should always be aware of what your campus may offer regarding activities outside the basic classroom studies. If you are lucky enough to have staff as friendly and hospitable as the ones here at the Ammerman campus, you are in for a very pleasant experience for your club-related activities.