Editor’s Note: March is Women’s History Month. New College News will be featuring a monthlong series of profiles of women making a difference at New College.
By Daisy Talbert
Profiles of prominent women abound during Women’s History Month. While it’s important to recognize those women, it’s also important to acknowledge those whose work often goes unnoticed. Women like Mary-Ellen Barnick, Mary Parker, and Laura Tessa may not be familiar to many in the New College community, but their work is critical to the college’s daily operation.
If you spend time around campus, you may have noticed Mary-Ellen Barnick from Parking Services on her golf cart. She has worked in campus parking control at New College for 12 years, helping to ensure student safety and parking compliance. Throughout her time at New College, Barnick has observed some changes.
“The concept of this college has not changed, but the fashion of dress sure has,” said Barnick. “I really miss the outrageous way the students used to dress at graduation. It always made me laugh.”
Barnick originally hails from the Bronx and has lived in Sarasota for 25 years. She appreciates the women who have influenced her life, especially during Women’s History Month. “The first woman [who influenced my life] would definitely be my mother,” shared Barnick. “My mother always said ‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ meaning, no matter what a person believes in or what shade their skin, always give them a chance.”
Barnick loves to sail, travel, and read in her free time. She hopes to travel more in the future and wishes only for an air-conditioned golf cart.
Like Barnick, Mary Parker is also a longtime New College employee. Parker has lived in Bradenton for 48 years, and she has served as New College’s refrigeration mechanic for almost 15 years. She helps maintain and repair all chilled and hot water systems around campus.
Having worked at New College for an extensive period, Parker also notes the many cultural changes the school has undergone since she first arrived on campus.
“I feel like there’s a little bit less of a sense of community,” said Parker. “When I first started here, we didn’t have bullying… to hear [about] people bullying each other [on the forum] was disheartening.”
Parker encourages other women to follow in her career path because of the limited female representation among electricians, engineers and mechanics. She draws on her grandmother for inspiration, saying “she helped shape me into a moral person.” Like any true Florida native, Parker spends her time outside of work at the beach with her wife and dogs.
Laura Tessa is one of the most familiar face on campus. You’re bound to see her at the cafeteria, where she’s always smiling, even during a Monday lunch rush.
“I’m the head cashier, and I’m in charge of the whole front of the house,” said Tessa of her work at New College.
Tessa began working at New College shortly after moving to the Sarasota Bay area from New York City six years ago. She notes that “most of the kids [have been] very good to me” in the five years she’s run the front of house. “They’re adorable!”
Tessa is happy with the improvements New College made to the Hamilton center, which allow for more seating.
“What’s nice here, during lunch and dinner … is that kids are talking to each other,” noted Tessa. “Not everybody is on their phone. There’s a lot of interaction.”
Tessa remains close with her most significant female role model, her first boss, who helped her follow her dreams of being a chef. The two visit at least once a year and talk every week. She hopes that more women will follow their culinary ambitions because “there are not many female chefs; it’s still an all-boys club.”
In her time off, Laura plays backgammon, goes to local live music venues and visits the beach.
Like everyone at New College, Barnick, Parker, and Tessa work hard every day to improve the lives of everyone at the college, especially the students. They and the hundreds of operations staff members help create a safe environment where students can pursue their academic endeavors, and New College salutes them during Women’s History Month.
— Daisy Talbert is an intern at the Office of Communications and Marketing.