Angel Kwasniak, Director of Operations at Buildings and Grounds, began working at Bennington College as a temporary housekeeper more than twenty-five years ago. She had two small children at the time and would soon enroll in a local college. It was especially difficult when she took on a full-time position in Dining Services, working a night shift that sometimes brought her home past midnight, but Kwasniak does not focus on the challenges. Instead, she possesses a deep care and respect for staff, a continued appreciation and love of the College, and an impressive work ethic.
Whenever there was a chance to move up the ranks within the College, Kwasniak seized the opportunity. With her eventual degree in management and the faith of her superiors—“other people put in a good word for me”—she assumed the role of Housekeeping Supervisor, a position she held for fifteen years. “I work really hard,” she says, always responding, “Game on!” to those who didn’t believe she could take on more responsibility.
Why Bennington College? “I love the College. I don’t always like it, but I always love the College,” she says.
It was at first “a challenge” to manage her former coworkers whom she had grown close to over their years working together, but Kwasniak maintained her focus on a safe workplace community as well as her hardworking attitude and eventually things smoothed out.
“I love my staff,” she says, especially because “many do work beyond their job description” and go above and beyond to care for the students. During the seven-day initial quarantine, for example, B&G staff took on the task of delivering food to the houses. This job technically falls under the jurisdiction of Dining Services, but as they were busy getting the meals out on time, carpenters and groundskeepers alike put aside their other tasks and stepped up. “We have to do whatever we have to do.”
“I love working with the staff on projects and events,” she goes on, describing how she likes to “lead by example” in her role as a manager. “If they need me, I will be on the ground with them.”
The sense of community is widespread, according to Kwasniak. “We’re intimate about who we are and who our families are.” This kind of familiarity has led to traditions of serving holiday feasts for Thanksgiving and Christmas wherein staff members, their families, and even student employees come together to celebrate the season. This is one of the many things Kwasniak feels COVID-19 has robbed them of. “We’ve had to limit [our closeness], which is hard.” This applies both to the cancelling of the celebrations as well as the safety measures that require distance among staff.
The only thing she hasn’t figured out how to maintain as Director is the connection with students that she formed in her years working in the houses. Anything to build a “more cohesive community” is worthwhile in Kwasniak’s book. She would like to see more projects formed between staff and students, and opportunities to “be together, work together, and learn from each other.” She hopes to hire an assistant soon so that she can focus more on these goals as well as having more time with the staff members.
Her children are grown now and raising children of their own, but Kwasniak is grateful for the time she can now spend with her husband, taking the occasional cruise and decorating her house. She is currently working on constructing a table, with the help of some of the College’s carpenters.
Watch out! If she meets you she will want to “pick your brain” and get to know you, like many staff members at Bennington, because it is important to her that students know they are supported here, and that they are not alone.