When I came to Stevens, my first goal was to secure an on-campus job. No longer was I bringing in the big bucks as I once did as a waitress at the Pompton Queen Diner, and I feared that I would quickly go through my precious summer funds that I had so carefully hoarded before starting college (a fear that did, in fact, become a reality).To my surprise, there were still a few positions left in the on-campus job pool, one of which included “Student Office Assistant” at CIESE, or the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (you now understand why we call it CIESE).
I was elated when Pat Slater, the Office Manager at the time, emailed me to ask me to come speak with her. I put on the most business professional clothing I had, brushed my hair — an arduous task if you’ve seen my curls — and quickly traipsed over to 1 Ninth St., a building owned by Stevens but unbeknownst to many. I remember sitting in a chair right next to Pat’s desk, and she proceeded to ask me simple questions about myself, namely my background, my major, what my schedule looked like — nothing technical. She hired me (although at her retirement dinner, she thought I was a bit “loud” at our first encounter), asked me to provide my hours of availability, and, in a matter of minutes, I was officially a work-study employee. I found the office assistant position to be comforting in a way. After Calculus homework or Design I program debugging — yes, I was an engineering student at the time — tasks like scanning, carrying packages to the post office, or putting together materials for the other CIESE employees were mindless and good for the soul.
I eventually mastered the Xerox copier machine and was unofficially promoted to Pat Slater’s proofreader (although that woman rarely made a mistake in the three and a half years that I worked with her). In the summers, I worked with Adam as a WaterBotics and STEAM camp counselor, helping design, program, and test underwater Lego robots with middle school-aged children. Before Rosemary left to work in the CAL Office, she and I passed the time by discussing the latest episodes of Game of Thrones. Later on, the wonderful Kathy K. brought me to Jersey City to help interview seventh-grade students for the Educational Testing Service (you know, the folks that design the GRE and TOEFL tests). Kate, always adorned in her Converse and equipped with a Diet Coke, genuinely wanted my feedback as she took over the STEAM camp once Adam left. The rest of the CIESE staff — Mercedes, Gail, Brian, and Greg — were always interested in my day-to-day doings on campus or in the classroom, oftentimes asking me for the “student perspective.”
CIESE started off as a five-hour commitment every week, but it has evolved into a home of opportunity for me to grow as a student, an employee, and a member of a team. I’ve come to realize that the friends you meet in college don’t always come from your major, your class year, or even the general undergraduate population. You find them in all corners of the university grounds, from the Samuel C. Williams Library, to the Office of Alumni Engagement and Development, to the warm, welcoming abode known as CIESE.