Behind the Scenes: The Women Who Make Albion College Work

Administrative Secretary for Institutional Advancement (IA) Brenda Brigham poses on the third floor of Ferguson, overlooking the quad. Sporting a ripped blue jean jacket and various jewelry, Brigham says that “it makes students feel comfortable” (Photo illustration by Katherine Simpkins).

Behind the walls of academia, a diverse array of women contribute through various roles, shaping the landscape of the institution and leaving a mark on the students, staff and faculty they interact with. As Women’s History Month unfolds, the spotlight shifts to the stories of these working women and their contributions.

Being committed to the well-being of the Brits across Albion’s campus takes effort. To highlight them is to showcase their lives; emphasizing not only their own narratives, but also the collective triumphs of the women behind the successes of our campus. 

Administrative Secretary for Institutional Advancement (IA), Brenda Brigham

Brigham started her career in advancement services 38 years ago on the third floor of Ferguson. After spending 25 years in position, Brigham moved into her current secretarial position in 2010. In her job, Brigham handles the clerical work for campus events put on by IA. Brigham said she “does a little bit of everything,” and has been told by Vice President of IA Marc Newman that she is the “heart of the operation.”

Brigham first heard about an open position within advancement services from the vice president of Albion Industries’ wife, the personnel director of Albion College at the time. 

Brigham said she’s remained at Albion all these years because she “work(s) with a good group of people.”

Brigham added that the student atmosphere at Albion is one of the reasons she’s stayed.

“Within the years I’ve been at Albion, I’ve experienced many different walks of life,” Brigham said. “The students, though, how friendly they are, is one of the driving forces as to why I’ve stayed.” 

Since starting her position in the summer of 1985, Brigham has students change over the generations. From wealth gaps to attire, Brigham has had to adapt to the times. One way she does this is through her wardrobe and style. 

“Ever since COVID, the required outfits of our departments have become more flexible,” Brigham said. “This (jacket) would have never been allowed years ago, but now students see it and seem to feel more comfortable and that’s all I could want.”

Brigham said that she “will be here for the foreseeable future” because the people she works with “are too good to leave.”

Brit Bar Smoothie Attendant, Candy Bieskie

Brit Bar Smoothie Attendant Candy Bieskie smiles at the smoothie station located in the Dow Center. Bieskie started working for the College in Feb. 2021 and has since created connections with students through her smoothie-making (Photo illustration by Katherine Simpkins).

Bieskie, who was born and raised in Albion, moved to Florida when she was 27. After 19 years Bieskie, a stay-at-home mom, had to move back due to unforeseen circumstances. Because her children played many sports, Bieskie said she was “always on the sidelines cheering and supporting (her three) children.” 

Accepting the role of “coach at home” made Bieskie excited to continue helping students, especially student-athletes, with her job. 

“I love my job, but most importantly I love the students,” Bieskie said. “Making nutritious drinks for athletes allows me to continue what I used to do for my children, and I just love it.”

However, Bieskie hasn’t always had the option to work or, in her words, “feel like my own person.”

“I went from not being my own person, in part due to being a mother, to working here and finding a whole new freedom. I am my own individual person,” Bieskie said. “I figured out I could be my own person, and be a mom, through working.”

However, Bieskie had to tackle more than the separation of motherhood and her self-image. 

“I wasn’t able to express my true self or work, so coming here helped my self-confidence and completely changed my life,” Bieskie said.

Coming to Albion allowed Bieskie to “find hope” through her work and said that it sometimes goes beyond a quick interaction. 

“Students ask me nutrition advice like ‘what can I do to improve my iron?’ So I suggest the spinach, or they ask ‘how can I detox?’ And I know the fruits to do that,” Bieskie said. “They even tell me their troubles and issues – I like being a safe space for them.”

Bieskie also works alongside her daughter, Ivy Bieskie.

“Having my daughter work here and with me is something I never imagined,” Bieskie said. “Sharing this experience with her has made it even more exciting to get up and come to work every day.”

Director of Writing Consulting, Angela Zito

Director of Writing Consulting, Angela Zito ‘09, sits in the writing center among students. After graduating from Albion, Zito studied at UWM where she “taught faculty and helped run the writing center, serving over 10,000 students per year” (Photo illustration by Katherine Simpkins).

After graduating from Albion in 2009 as an English major and cell and molecular biology minor, Zito went on to receive her doctorate in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM). With her experience at UWM, Zito sought other career avenues, leading her back to her alma mater. 

“I imagined what my ideal career would look and feel like, and I knew it would have some combination of administrative work within a writing center and classroom teaching,” Zito said. “I love classroom teaching and this position offered both.”

Zito’s position also came with a new role, one that would expand her reach beyond the writing center. 

“The position also came with something new, which was being part of the Student Success Center here in the Cutler Center,” Zito said. “Learning to wear all of these hats simultaneously is really exciting.”

Zito and the Writing Center offer many opportunities for students. 

“We work really closely with students, train writing consults and be part of their professional development, plan events like writing workshops and retreats and so forth,” Zito said adding that she tells her peer consultants “let’s shape this into something that’s going to be helpful’ and so far it has been.”

Before becoming director, Zito said a few experiences at Albion influenced both her personal development and future career.

“I took a lot of classes with Jess Roberts and Helena Mesa,” Zito said. “Both of them had huge positive influences on me.”

However, it was another professor who unintentionally set Zito on her career path. 

“One of my biology professors, Dr. Constance Moore, who was this incredible Black woman, complimented me on my written lab reports,” Zito said. “She encouraged me to pursue biology because ‘we need more women biologists.’”

Dr. Moore’s compliment instead made Zito realize that “writing was a power and it’s something that can be grown, learned, shared, coached and supported for other people.”

Zito credits Dr. Moore as the person who helped her realize that “writing was this particular pocket of English studies that I had skill in,” Zito said. “I really enjoyed it and talking about it and she ultimately geared me toward English – and here I am today.”

Editor’s Note: 10:57 a.m. Friday, April 12: Spelling of Helena Mesa’s first name was corrected.

About Katherine Simpkins 24 Articles
Katherine Simpkins, aka "Kat", is a senior from Adrian, MI. She is majoring in Sociology and minoring in Educational Studies. Her passion for journalism started at an early age when she picked up her camera and started seeing life from a different perspective. In her free time, you can find Kat snuggled up next to her cat, Phoebe; named after the best "Friends" character. You can contact her at KCS11@albion.edu.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the article. As an alum I can speak first hand to all the women who do the day to day physical work to keep the college going.. from the lady who cleans all the uniforms, to the cooks and housekeepers. They are integral part of the Albion experience
    You lost a great opportunity to dig a little deeper and check w HR on the number of women employed at Albion. Years past, the Plaid would recognize the long term employees. Please consider a follow up b w more stats and relevancy. The college is the towns largest employer. My mother was the lead baker for all desserts.. when the college ran food service for no profit. She was a hit w the president down to the students w home baked goodies. The next time Britons see these employees, tell them.thanks for their outstanding contributions.

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