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Staff Spotlight: Mary Kale

Mary KaleMary Kale serves as the Executive Assistant to the Chair of Chemistry, providing support for faculty meetings, donor communications, and managing the Chair's schedule. Joining the Chemistry Department in 2023, Mary brings experience as a Program Coordinator for the Molecular Biophysics Training Program. Outside the office, Mary enjoys spending quality time with her daughter and expressing her fine arts background through creative endeavors.

Tell us about what you do in your current position in the Department? 

I’m the Executive Assistant to Prof. Teri Odom: Chair of the Chemistry Department, and I facilitate Chair duties. I put together thank you notes for our generous donors, assist in faculty meetings, seminars, and faculty votes. I also support Richard Dodd: Director of Finance and Administration. You’ll find me in the super bright and welcoming main office space, one of my favorite things. To think my previous role had a (semi) lake-view private office and I much prefer the more bustling and collaborative space Chemistry has to offer.

Before working at Northwestern, what was the most unusual or interesting job you have ever had?

During my stay-at-home mom days, I was also a content creator during the earlier years of that concept. I found my creative outlet and a community that I loved and have many fond memories from that time. I switched my videos to private having grown and changed so much - leaving a previous version of myself out there for the public felt erroneous. I’m grateful for that experience, though, and it’s something people never would have guessed I spent years involved in.

Where are you from, and where did you grow up? 

I’m from the southern burbs of Chicago. I moved to the city during college and after a California vacation, I decided to create a plan to move out West. I lived in San Diego for ~6 years and worked at the UCSD Medical Center on the academic end in Radiology. I ended up missing the culture, arts, and architecture found only in Chicago and made my way back to the Midwest in 2017. People always associate palm trees and sunshine with vacation vibes but I can confirm, it was regular life out there. Time away from Chicago helped me to see how much I love it back here, even with the ever-changing and unexpected weather we get. My dad always used to say, “If you don’t like the weather in Chicago, wait a day!” and I very much agree.

What is a hobby or activity you do outside of work? 

With a degree in Fine Art, I find myself drawing/painting (watercolor), or coloring off and on. These passions allow me to engage in therapeutic and fulfilling projects that can bring me back to life when things feel hard. I love walking by the water and enjoying that type of serenity. Finding activities that nourish the soul have become more meaningful the older I get. Long walks down the lake with my daughter are my favorite, it opens her up to lots of conversation and I love that.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
I just returned from a week in Disney World for my 40th (!) and kiddo’s 10th birthday. I love the joy Disney brings but if we are talking outside of the magic bubble, I’d have to say Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver was the most gorgeous, vibrant, and lush place I’d ever been. I had no idea what green was until that trip. The architecture of the city, the mountains!  Exploring Grouse Mountain via gondola was a breathtaking experience, and the panoramic views were so inspiring. I’d gladly make my way to Vancouver again in this lifetime when I generally try not to repeat destinations too much.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? 
The following women have resonated with me on a personal level some way or somehow- and I’d love any opportunity to meet them: Sara Josephine Baker (big fan of handwashing!), Rachel Maddow (women in political commentary!), Sally Ride (space exploration is fascinating!), Billie Jean King (women doing the most in athletics!), Kate McKinnon (women can be funny!) – I could go on (!) but all these women have made remarkable contributions in the world as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The common denominator is their representation has been profoundly impactful, offering strength and inspiration to me in recent years. I am eternally grateful for their existence and their accomplishments.