Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Mary O’Brien

o'brienName: Mary O’Brien

Occupation: Communications

Education (UR and additional): BA (English/Minor in Journalism), University of Rochester, 2003; MBA, University at Albany – SUNY, 2009

Current city/state of residence: Slingerlands, NY

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

Rush Rhees Library and awesome financial aid.

When and how did you choose your major?

I entered U of R as a biology (pre-med) major. It took me three semesters to be positive it wasn’t for me. It was a difficult decision, and one that I wish I’d made before that unfortunate grade in organic chemistry, but I ultimately became an english major. While still headstrong and committed to bio, I received encouragement from Professor David Bleich – he was right. I looked forward to my English classes while dreading long hours in lab. Listen to yourself. I also got a journalism minor. (Memmott – I use the inverted pyramid on a daily basis – thanks!)

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was active in my sorority, Delta Gamma, as well as the Panhellenic Association. My time in DG taught me about loyalty and philanthropy, as well as time management. I also made incredible friends. As President of Panhel, I had direct contact with administrators, practiced dreaded public speaking, learned about crisis management, and gained leadership experience – all critical skills in the workplace. I also spent a lot of time at Pellegrino’s and watching Sex and the City DVDs – thank you Anderson 740 & Fairchild 410.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Immediately after graduation I returned to Albany and went back to my summer job at the New York Summer School of the Arts.  I was able to keep working there until I started my first “real job” in January as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company. I worked at the publishing company for several years ending my time there as a Product Manager working on products for the professional health care market.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I currently work in the corporate communications office of a health care system – the perfect place for a former pre-med English major with an MBA. Several of my jobs led me to my current position including my time in health care publishing and a two year stint in the University Health Promotion office. I get to write and edit, contribute to committees, interact with vendors, clinicians, and the community. Every day can be different from the last which keeps things interesting.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Know what is most important to you and define your version of success accordingly. I’ve had different priorities at different times since graduation – work, family, grad school, relationships – and as they change you have to make adjustments.

How are you still connected with the University?

I am a UR Involved volunteer. I have enjoyed meeting with prospective students, making congratulatory phone calls, and meeting other alumni and parents. I was on our five- and 10-year reunion planning committees. I have been to very fortunate to stay in touch with friends and return to campus several times over the years.