Team-oriented and encouraging, with a natural gift for customer service, are just a few ways that Olga O’Brien’s peers choose to describe her. The interim general manager for the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center has been selected as George Mason University’s March Employee of the Month.
O’Brien was nominated by Amanda Meiklejohn, recreation program manager for the Freedom Center, who says that O’Brien demonstrates Mason’s core values each day in her work and leadership.
“She is the most honest and respectful supervisor I have ever had, and I truly feel honored to have the opportunity to work with her each day. I am always learning something new from her,” Meiklejohn said.
O’Brien’s career with George Mason began when she moved to Fairfax from Prague in 1996 as an international student with a volleyball scholarship. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health and graduated in 2001. O’Brien began working at the Freedom Center part-time as a volleyball instructor in 1999 before becoming the center’s programs specialist and, later, programs manager.
During this time, she developed the Freedom Center’s annual summer camp program, which provides various camps for children from the community. The program has grown immensely during the past 17 years with more than 500 children enrolled weekly. According to O’Brien, more than 60 percent of the campers come back and serve as camp counselors when they are old enough.
“It’s really great to see that we made an impact on them as children, and they came back as young adults and want to provide the same experience for the children in return,” she said. “We found that very encouraging and rewarding.”
O’Brien stepped in as interim general manager more than a year ago, and Ronald L. Carmichael, director of Administration and Operations for the Science and Technology Campus, says that she has been “stellar” in this role.
“She is a selfless contributor and team player who works countless hours to complete her projects, as well as assisting others in the accomplishment of their goals,” Carmichael said.
Between her work responsibilities and recent enrollment in Mason’s master’s program in recreation administration, O’Brien finds time to engage in her passion for volleyball as a coach for both children and adults at the Freedom Center, which she now calls her second home.
“I love to give back and share the knowledge that I have because if we as teachers don’t share our knowledge, then what is our future going to look like?” O’Brien said. “We need to share our skills and expertise.”
O’Brien will be formally presented with this award by President Ángel Cabrera in the Community Room at the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center on the Science and Technology Campus at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7. Her family, co-workers and friends are all encouraged to attend the ceremony. Those who are unable to attend can watch the Facebook livestream at www.facebook.com/workingatmason.