Occasionally, faculty in the English Department at George Mason University bring their young children in for a visit. It’s for those moments that Kate Bryan keeps a supply of small stuffed animals in her desk. With the really young ones, Bryan will play peek-a-boo as well.
“We all try to chip in with coloring pages and talking to the kids, so their parents can get something done,” Bryan said.
It is that kind of personal touch that has endeared Bryan to her coworkers. Add her proficiency as a receptionist and administrative assistant, and you have a rare combination of personality and expertise.
You also have October’s Employee of the Month.
“Is it embarrassing to say that I cried a little bit,” Bryan said of being told of the recognition. “In light of homeschooling three kids and feeling like you aren’t doing enough in any part of your life, it felt amazing to have somebody validate me and say you’re doing a great job.”
Bryan, who came to Mason in June 2019, designs and sends out the English Department’s e-newsletter every Monday. She also handles the department’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, as well as travel reconciliation for faculty, and she manages some of the department’s start-up funds.
Her extensive graphics background has come in particularly handy when it comes to designing promotional material, digital content and social media posts. She even guest-lectured in a document design class taught by Term Assistant Professor Lourdes Fernandez.
“Her guest lecture and subsequent advice about design show her willingness to share her expertise in a way that benefits the program and the department,” Fernandez said. “And the department will benefit from some of the materials the students designed and produced during the semester.”
And speaking of students, “I love talking to them,” Bryan said. “I look at them and think this could be my kid in 10 years. So when someone has a question, I try to hone in and say, if this were my kid standing here, I would want that person to stop what they were doing and answer their questions.”
“I cannot emphasize strongly enough how difficult and diverse Kate’s job is,” said Mary Baldwin, grants and program coordinator in the English Department. “The creative thinking, emotional intelligence, time management and administrative know-how needed to succeed is incredible, and she is a shining example of all that and more.”
How she got here:
I've been a graphic designer for more than 20 years, and spent the majority of my career designing for a public health contractor with [National Institutes of Health] clients. My family’s needs changed when we had twins, plus one more, and I worked for the same company as a freelancer so that I could be the primary caregiver in our family. I came to Mason seeking a more steady, part-time workflow that would allow me to flex both my creative and administrative skills while still being available for my family.
Best day on the job:
A colleague who is a poet wrote a letter to my youngest daughter to answer a question my child had asked me: "What is a poem?" We reread this letter from time to time, and we keep it safely tucked away in our book of children's poems by John Updike. It's a treasure to us.
What she likes best about working at Mason:
What I found here is a tightly knit community of inspiring, talented, and dedicated people who challenge me to continue to grow in myriad ways. It's a very nurturing atmosphere. And I can't help but be enthusiastic about our department and the work being done there. I truly get a thrill from interacting with our students on social media and promoting our projects there and in our e-newsletter. In doing this work, I learn something new every day, and it lights a spark in me on a continual basis.
What she does when not working:
My absolute favorite activity is reading to my kids. My husband and I are independent music fans. In addition to my obvious interest in art and design, I love ceramics. When I had more time and access to a studio, I spent hour upon hour making pottery. I hope I'll get back to the wheel one day in the future.