Thursday, June 16, 2011

See you later, CWRU

Today is my last day of work at Case Western Reserve University. It's been an incredible experience working for my undergraduate alma mater for the past eight years.

My role as director of marketing and communications for the College of Arts and Sciences has to be among the best jobs around. I work with people I admire and respect; they are dedicated, diverse and dynamic. My staff colleagues include a classics scholar, a fashion model, a violist, a talent agent, a yoga instructor and a musical theater director. The faculty I work with include anthropologists, astronomers, chemists, dancers, historians, musicologists, novelists, playwrights, psychologists, sociologists. My boss and mentor, the dean of the college, is a particle physicist who unwinds by training for ultramarathons and teaching himself Mandarin.

My first job at CWRU was in the Office of Undergraduate Admission, where I helped to attract talented, high-achieving students to the university. After that, I joined the Office of Marketing and Communications to lead the university's media relations team. My colleagues were some of the most hardworking, tireless people I have ever known.

Among my most rewarding professional experiences at CWRU was being a founding member of the committee that created the university's Women Staff Leadership Development Initiative. It was exhilarating to see one little idea evolve into a robust, thriving university program. It was deeply rewarding to work with a group of talented, thoughtful women leaders interested in building a supportive community and elevating the campus culture as a whole.

And of course, I cannot forget the students. CWRU students are simply amazing. I was honored when I was nominated for an undergraduate mentoring award a few years ago; knowing these incredible individuals has been a privilege. From the interns I supervised to the student newspaper editors I advised, these rising stars were impressive as undergraduates and have continued to astound me with their accomplishments since graduation; they include a Fulbright scholar, Teach for America corps members, Peace Corps volunteers, and a number of engineers, doctors and lawyers. Some of them have married, some are new parents. Thanks to Facebook, I'm able to stay updated on their exploits.

Working at CWRU has had its challenges over the years. For one, it has been difficult juggling parenthood and a demanding career. I should have realized from the start that my work-life balance would be indelibly blurred at CWRU - my work and wedding anniversary are the same day. During my time at the university, I endured a difficult pregnancy and contemplated quitting my job once my baby was born. I had understanding supervisors, though, who gave me flexibility in my work arrangement. I continued to work full time with a few accommodations (anyone need a breast pump - anyone?). And then I connected with a network of wonderful working parents who sought to face work-life issues together.

In my personal life, these past eight years have brought some major changes. My family expanded; when I first came to work at CWRU, I had a one-year-old boy in diapers. Now, that little guy has big horse teeth and will be entering fourth grade. And he now has a three-year-old brother, one who enjoys playing online UNO on my iPad but has little interest in toilet training.

And their dad, my husband, is working for a fantastic company that requires us to relocate to California. We are excited about this new family adventure, but it is going to be hard to say goodbye to all that we love here in Cleveland, Ohio.

Case Western Reserve University has been a special place for my family. My father has been a research scientist here for nearly 35 years. My sister and I used to visit his lab and be fascinated with the Geiger counter. My husband and I both earned diplomas from the university; I was an English major, Vic was a computer engineering major who later also earned a graduate degree in operations research. Our sons experienced life on campus, from visiting my office countless times to going to Springfest year after year. Nico used to accompany me during production nights at The Observer while Vic attended evening classes. I nursed two-week-old Nolan in the press box radio room during a CWRU Homecoming game.

I am enormously grateful for all that I've experienced in my years at CWRU. I've met great people and I've learned valuable life lessons. I am sad to leave a place that has had an impact on my family for three generations.

But I know I will be back again some day.