Behind the Scenes: Questions for Irene Berwick
By Jennifer Potanka ’11, Staff Writer
What is your position at the college? What does a typical day at work entail?

I am the Summer Programs Coordinator (and Scheduling System Administrator). My work varies a lot depending on the time of year. I am in charge of coordinating summer groups on this campus. Most of them are outside groups that bring in money for the College. Some are College-sponsored meetings and seminars. During the academic year I write contracts and plan the usage of the dorms and classrooms for the summer. Between Reunion and Orientation I run a camp and conference center, so during that time I am essentially on call 24 hours a day, responding to customer needs. I have more than 50 different programs scheduled for this summer.

Where did you grow up?

Northampton and Whately, Mass..

What was your childhood like?

My father was a professor of Civil Engineering at UMass and my mother was a chemist who worked for Breck Shampoo in Springfield and also taught at Smith and later UMass herself. I grew up in the 50s and 60s so it was somewhat unusual to have a mother who worked. My two sisters and I were highly encouraged to go into professions. My older sister has a PhD in Linguistics and my younger sister is an MD. I am a bit of a black sheep only having a Master’s degree.

How did you end up in Amherst?

In 1989 I graduated as an Ada Comstock scholar from Smith with a degree in Computer Science and started applying for jobs. I landed the job as Financial Assistant to the Physical Plant at Amherst College, which I did for five years before I switched to Summer Programs.

What is your family like? Do you have any pets?

Both my kids are in New York City now. My daughter has been there since she graduated from Syracuse in 2000. She works for an internet health website, is married and has a son who is 17 months old. My son moved down there more recently and is working and going to school. My younger sister lives in Maine with her family, while my older sister works for a German organization in various African countries. She was just sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and seems to be liking it.

What is your favorite place in the world?

I lived in England for years (Liverpool) and really love it. However, I keep coming back to New England. I think the seasons here are the best. Especially the fall. And actually the Pioneer Valley is a great place to live because you have the best of both worlds — reasonable cultural opportunities (concerts, plays, lectures, etc.) because of the Five Colleges, but also rural and outdoor possibilities very nearby.

Do you have a favorite Val meal?

I really am a sucker for the chicken wings and always hit the salad bar of course.

What is your favorite thing about Amherst College?

It’s easy to feel good about working for an educational institution, that my efforts are part of a positive contribution to society. I also appreciate my co-workers at Amherst. The work ethic and feeling of teamwork here is outstanding. It’s also a fluid environment that keeps changing, which keeps me interested.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Not sure that they are hidden. I think I have used most of them somehow in my life.

What is your favorite hobby or activity?

Spectator sport — I love baseball. I’m going to spring training in Florida in a few weeks. Activity — hiking and backpacking. I’ve done a few long-distance trails with my dog.

Do you have a daily routine before and after work?

In the morning — a very enjoyable cup of coffee and then walking my dog. Then I walk him again when I get home.

What period of your life do you wish you could relive?

None, really. I appreciate the wisdom that comes with experience, and I try to enjoy the present.

How many years have you worked at Amherst? What positions did you hold before Amherst?

Twenty-one years. I was the treasurer, business manager and part-owner of a silk screen printing company just before I came to Amherst. I have also worked as a waitress, a nurse’s aide, in a wine bar in England and in a fish factory in the Shetland Islands.

What is your favorite memory of being at Amherst?

Probably last year when the faculty voted to include two staff members as voting members on the Committee for Priorities and Resources (CPR), a change that I had worked for as a member of the Advisory Committee on Personnel Policies (ACPP).

Issue 15, Submitted 2011-02-16 00:21:01