February 2020 Colleen Mallet
In January, I had a lovely conversation with Colleen Mallet, Registrar, and she shared some of her best stories from her thirty-six years at Vassar. She told me about her first ever task at Vassar—typing up the full schedule of classes on a typewriter: “If there was a mistake or new edit, you had to start from the beginning. I still have nightmares about that process.” Eventually, in 1995, Vassar switched to an online system to keep track of such things, and her typewriter days were behind her.
She remembers the first time she ever came to Vassar’s campus. She was a Girl Scout Brownie, and her troop went had a field trip at the Vassar Observatory, what we now know as the Old Observatory. She gazed up through the telescope at sun spots. Some years later, she served on the classrooms committee, and returned to that dome room, which was empty and unused. The committee put their heads together, and realized they could make a great classroom out of it. If you’ve ever been in there, you know just how special that room is.
When I asked her what is her favorite part about Vassar and our community, she thought for awhile, and then mentioned how many trends she’s seen come and go. “Lifestyles, hairstyles, clothing. Some trends repeat—I’ve been seeing more pink and purple hair again. I remember this one student with piercings all over his face and chains connecting his ear to his nose. One day I just had to ask him about it. He said ‘All of this can be removed, but it’s my way of expressing myself when I’m here.’ I liked that.” It makes sense that she’s seen so much, because as she says, “Every single student crosses paths with our office at some point.”
It’s the students and their successes that make Colleen feel a sense of community and belonging—she’s a part of the collective goal of “getting students from the starting line to the finish line.” She reflects on seeing students during their first year registration when they’re “brand-new and sparkling clean,” watching them progress on their journeys, and finally, crossing the stage at commencement. She once met a student’s mother who said she was going to bawl her eyes out when her child graduated. Colleen as the advisor to Vassar’s veteran students in the Posse Program, replied, “How do you think I’m going to feel? I’ve got ten kids crossing that stage today.”
Each month in our newsletter, we seek to highlight the work of someone on our campus (whether they be staff, student, administrator, or faculty). Any member of the Vassar community can be nominated, even if they are not yet involved with EPI. If you have someone you'd like to nominate to be featured in the next Community Spotlight, email Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org.