Loyola University Maryland


A Thank You Note

Messina staff and student employee pose together for a picture with a Madonna cutout.
It’s your old pal Brooke reporting to write the monthly blog for the very last time. Let me level with you, small audience of the Messina monthly blogs... I told my supervisor that this last blog was going to be about my final pieces of senior wisdom and advice for first years. That was an absolute lie. I am taking this very last blog opportunity to express my gratitude for the Messina office, the opportunities that working here for the past three years has afforded me, and the beautiful and kind souls that work therein. If I’m pressed to connect it to a typical “blog topic,” we can call it recruitment! I’m leaving, and they’ll need a new creative assistant! Or I could just not give them a topic. What are they going to do? Fire me?

The summer going into my sophomore year, I was looking for a new work study position after I decided I was done working as a mascot (Yes, I was Iggy, I can sign an autograph if you’d like.) I saw a post on Instagram that said the Messina office was looking for “creative people” to fill a role in the office. I’m creative! Did I have any graphic design, marketing, or social media experience? Absolutely not. Surprisingly, they offered me the position based off of my “portfolio” of one poster I’d made for a club onetime and my laughable resume. The person I have to thank for that is Teresa Heath, who since then moved to the SSWP office on campus and now is doing amazing things at the Maryland Department of Health. She was inconceivably patient and encouraging with me as I learned so much new information and asked my hundreds of questions starting off this position.

In my three years, there was never a single day that I dreaded going into work. The Messina office became a second home to me on campus and a space where I was always learning, always trusted to make creative decisions and flexing my creative muscle, and always having the best time with the people there. I loved brainstorming and bonding with my phenomenal fellow creative assistants over the years: Kassidy McVey, Caroline Hermance, Esther Chung, and now the quick learning first year Sabrina Gurung who I am so excited to keep watching grow and flourish in this role. I loved the professional staff, who I’ll get more into in a moment, and how they treated the students as equal colleagues (even though we weren’t) and created an environment that felt welcoming, supportive, and was always so much fun. So many Loyola offices are great, but I hit the jackpot somehow falling into the lap of Messina by chance and good fortune.

When you first walk (or in my case, Heely) into the Messina office, you encounter the gentle force that is Sarah Lewis. Sarah sits at the front desk, often wrapped in a thick blanket or jacket even into the Spring months. Creative and Office Assistants sit at desks right behind Sarah’s, and she is always good for a chat about genuinely anything from recent TV shows or movies being watched to new and old Baltimore restaurants to dating apps or her years living in Japan. On slower days, conversations with her could make hours feel like minutes and she also was always the one to get me out of a pinch if I needed(often a bit of overdue flyer printing or otherwise troubleshooting.) Not many moments later you’ll be greeted by, in my opinion, the heart and soul of the office, Jan Vohrer. She sits in the back right corner, but is never truly separated from the action. Her quips, stories, and absolutely boundless hilarity make the office what it is.

Two other faces I’ll miss in that little Maryland Hall office are those of Mary Ellen Wade and Mike Puma. For anyone who doesn’t know Mary Ellen, she is smarter than most people I know, but humble enough to keep that from being intimidating. She is kind hearted, dedicated to improvement for the office (she LOVES a Qualtrics survey,) and always an open door for suggestions, advice, guidance, sometimes baked goods, or just a chat. I think if I needed terrible news delivered to me by anyone in the world, I would choose Mary Ellen Wade. On another hand, when you walk into Mike Puma’s office, you are greeted by a door full of stickers notifying you that his space is a safe one and then a life size cutout of Madonna. I think this sums up Mike pretty well, if you’d give me a moment to explain. Mike values inclusion and radical acceptance so deeply and lets you know that right off the bat-- and he is also so much fun. I was lucky enough for him to also be the mentor I worked with for a semester as an Evergreen, and I saw firsthand how above and beyond he goes to support anyone who needs him (including his Evergreen.) He knows the best spots in town if you’re craving Italian food and he might just make some for you himself. He cares so deeply about students and is, I believe deeply, one of Loyola’s finest. These two are a dynamic duo who run a tight ship but still always found time for my shenanigans.

Finally, I come to one more Messina staff person who wasn’t in the office often (she has her own all the way in Bowman Hall and was isolating before it was cool.) When Teresa left for SSWP, Emily Poyraz became my supervisor and has been my mentor, advocate, and (I hope she’ll agree) friend ever since. I don’t have the words to thank Emily for all she’s done and been for me in my time at Loyola and with Messina, but she has shaped my experience here more than I think she knows. Her trust in and honesty with me, patience and flexibility, and unwavering encouragement and support among many other things have made me a more confident and creative worker and just a better person. She gave me space to grow and independence but also knew exactly when I needed extra support without my even having to ask and without making me feel weak for it. Every meeting started with a genuine check in because of her deep compassion and desire to be present for those that she worked with. As a former educator herself, she also always gave me teaching advice and input which was invaluable as I went through field placements for my major, internships, and applied for jobs. She’s the kind of thoughtful leader that walks alongside you, not in front, and I don’t know if I will ever have a supervisor quite like her again. Also, I’m sorry I lied about the blog topic-I hope you forgive me, Emily.

I think this is good recruitment! If you’re creative and want to take over as a creative assistant after I leave, you have all of this to look forward to. I count myself so lucky to have found a work study job that became so much more than that. The work was always enjoyable and fulfilling, the company was always supportive and fun to be around (shout out also to Emily Hopkins and Georgette Avrigian- former Office Assistants who I haven’t mentioned yet but friends who I also adored working alongside!), and I could not be more grateful for it all. What more appropriate a last blog than essentially just a big thank you note to my second home and work family.

Now, if you could please follow us at @messinaatloyola on Instagram- this weepy senior just wants us to hit 1,000 followers before she graduates.
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