Q: Maureen, you are an accounting specialist for the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, and an administrative assistant for the Wesleyan Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Program in the Life Sciences. Is it challenging to wear two hats?
A: Maybe it should be more of a challenge, but I’ve been doing it so long it’s become second nature. I akin it to speaking two languages, your brain just shifts automatically from one to the other. Michael Weir (director of the Hughes Program) in one door to talk summer applications and Mike McAlear (chair of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department) walks in the other door to talk department budget. Sometimes it’s difficult to devote the appropriate number of hours to each department when one is crazy busy, but we feel it evens out over time.
Q: When did you come to Wesleyan, and what were you hired in as?
A: I came to Wesleyan 22 years ago to my current MB&B part-time position. In 1993 a serious of unfortunate events that would give Lemony Snicket food for thought led to my need for more hours. The Wesleyan Hughes Program was kind enough to hire me for six hours a week, which became 10, which became 16 as the program grew.
Q: Is your time split 50/50 between the two departments? Do you physically move, or do you work from the MB&B Department?
A: It’s not an even split. I’m actually 55.55 percent MB&B and 44.44 percent Hughes. I have this thing for repetitive numbers so it works for me. I am, however, 100 percent physically in the MB&B office — when I’m not in Woodhead, the Exley Lobby, Tishler Terrace or across the hall getting coffee. At one time Hughes has a separate office but we relinquished it when space was needed.
Q: Please elaborate on your role as an accounting specialist. What accounts do you oversee in MB&B?
A: As a part time accounting specialist I was hired to oversee the grants, although the recent Voluntary Separation Package has forced me to break out into the world of departmental accounts. MB&B faculty are highly successful in obtaining grants, there are probably a dozen in effect at any given time. Add to these the various ploughback, start up, gift, faculty research, and Hughes accounts, and my smartkey list numbers well over 50. It’s a lot of numbers to keep straight before you even look into the money part of it.
Q: The Wesleyan HHMI Program supports undergraduate education in the life sciences. How do you assist the program overall?
A: While MB&B is primarily accounting, my role in the Wesleyan Hughes Program is totally diversified. I’m secretary, accountant, coordinator, caterer organizer and mass e-mailer. I try to look out for the students. Having three daughters currently in college and a son who completed his master’s in November, I’d like to think there are staff at their schools who would do the same for them.
This is our sixth consecutive grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. If my memory serves me they’ve brought in the neighborhood of 6 million dollars to the university, not only in support of undergraduate research, but also curriculum and faculty development. We also offer stipends for master’s students, support K-8 outreach and help purchase needed pieces of equipment. I think most people on campus are unaware of how much the Hughes grants have impacted the sciences here.
Q: What do you like best about working at Wesleyan?
A: The best part about working at Wesleyan is the paycheck. All kidding aside….sure, it’s the paycheck. But I’ve often said if I were to win Lotto I’d still want to be here as I would very much miss the interaction. I like people, am interested in how they think, what makes them who they are, and on any given day at Wesleyan I’m likely to interact with dozens of folk. Whether it’s an undergraduate, a vice president or a WB Mason driver, I enjoy getting to know them a little bit more each time.
Q: I understand that for you, working at Wesleyan is a family affair.
A: My brother-in-law started at Wesleyan in 1980, followed by my first husband later that year. I came on board in 1988 and since then two of my nephews have joined the staff, and my daughter now temps here. We all appreciate that it’s a good place to work.