B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
stock of her career
By David J. Craig
Laura Gerety planned on pursuing a career in medicine when she came to BU as a freshman in 1998. She landed a work-study job in the CAS biology department stockroom during her first semester, and it seemed like a convenient way to earn pocket money as she worked toward attaining an M.D.
Two and a half years later, the position is much more than a job to Gerety (CAS'02, SMG'02), who has discovered that her true passion is not for medicine but for business administration. Nothing makes her day, she says, quite like seeing huge numbers of packages containing biology laboratory equipment and supplies flow through her office and get delivered to the appropriate biology faculty members in a timely manner.
Her dedication in helping manage the stockroom couldn't be valued more by biology department administrators: letters they wrote in praise of her outstanding work performance helped earn Gerety BU's Student Employee of the Year Award. The award, presented to Gerety at a luncheon on Thursday, April 5, comes with a $500 savings bond and a plaque. Her nomination has also been forwarded to a statewide competition sponsored by the Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators.
"The other day I was talking to a friend who told me that you're supposed to be able to just sit around and do your schoolwork at a student job," says Gerety, who is now working toward degrees in economics through CAS and in business administration through SMG. "But since the day I started, I never looked at my job that way. I honestly love doing things like talking to customer service people and sales representatives.
"It can be incredibly hectic and kind of stressful," she adds, "especially if a professor expects delivery of some equipment and there's no way to get it right away. But it's really satisfying when the people who work here pull together as team to get the job done."
Working about 20 hours a week, Gerety places orders with equipment vendors for about 80 biology faculty and staff members and hundreds of students, tracks the orders on the University's Information Systems database to make sure necessary approvals are secured, receives and distributes incoming materials, and troubleshoots and tracks down wayward orders. She also maintains the stockroom's inventory and handles radioactive packages for researchers from other departments, all of which go through the biology stockroom.
According to her supervisors, Gerety regularly pops into the stockroom when she's not on the work schedule to make sure important shipments are received, rearranges her schedule to help when the stockroom is shorthanded, and works late when necessary.
"She is always motivated to do more and to do it better," wrote her supervisor, Thomas Symancyk, in an enthusiastic nomination letter. Symancyk, who is the biology materials and facilities manager, added that Gerety's position can be one of the "most thankless jobs" on campus. "Laura is very willing to take on even the most arduous tasks with a smile. Her reputation as a student employee is legendary."
In another nomination letter, biology department chairman Geoffrey Cooper noted that Gerety's work did not suffer even after her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. He died in the fall. "Our department could not run without her assistance," he wrote.
Gerety, who plans to build a career in management, admits that it's difficult balancing her job with a full load of courses, but she considers her extra effort an investment in the future. "I put so much into the job that when I'm not there, I often end up wondering whether or not things are getting done, and sometimes that does distract me from my schoolwork," she says. "But getting a degree isn't the only thing needed to get a good job. You still need work experience, and this job -- and especially winning this award -- is going to help me a lot when I'm out of school.
"My mother is exactly like me," she adds. "She always has to be doing something, and she can never sit down. The way I approach my job is just the way I've always done things. But it's nice to be appreciated."
Employee of the year runners-up
Also recognized this year for superlative effort at their student employment jobs were Nathan Berthiaume and Pete Cirak. As runners-up to Gerety, each received a $100 U.S. savings bond and a framed certificate.
Berthiaume (CAS'01) has worked in the Mugar Memorial Library security department since 1997, and has been a student security supervisor there for more than two years, overseeing up to 34 other student workers. He has been instrumental in confidential surveillance operations at the library, once identifying and locating a crime suspect wanted by police, and is also responsible for assisting the library's full-time security supervisor.
Berthiaume, who is a history major, is "extremely reliable and has gone consecutive semesters without taking even one day off," wrote Luiz Costa, the library's security manager, when nominating him for the award. "During school breaks, including during the summer, he has taken multiple fill-in shifts, driving an hour and a half each time to arrive for duty. He consistently goes out of his way to assist the department in times of need."
Cirak (ENG'01) is a teaching assistant for the course Introduction to Engineering Computation, taught by ENG Assistant Professor of Manufacturing Engineering Dorothy Attaway. He grades assignments, conducts weekly review sessions for students, and maintains a computer laboratory.
Notable for his "huge grin and booming voice," according to Attaway, who also is associate chair for undergraduate studies at ENG, Cirak is a former U.S. Marine and an older student who nevertheless "completely fits in with other teaching assistants and works easily with the freshmen" in her course.
"Although he is clearly the leader of the course staff," she wrote in her nomination letter, "he socializes with them and leads mostly by example. He is the most reliable, hardest working, and most enthusiastic TA I've ever had."