Between the giant, unbreakable, unyielding concrete blocks that hold the Science Building of New England College together is a crucial element that fills in all the cracks, molding the units of the building together. Some might call it mortar; Professor Matt Young would call it Michael Gardner.
Michael Gardner (everyone calls him Mike) is a laboratory assistant, adjunct faculty member, and a scientific superstar. I found Mike leaving the lab sporting traditional faculty flannel and blue nitrile gloves. He started working at NEC in early January of 2017. As he counted on his fingers how long it had been already, he shook his head in disbelief. Mike has been here for seven semesters.
Mike maintains the homeostasis of the Science Building. He places orders, maintains inventory and helps with preparing for different events, such as Snacking on Science. He spends time helping fellow faculty members left and right; Mike smiles and refers to them as “steadfast.” Although a large piece of his job is supporting differing parts of the Science division, his favorite part of his job is interacting with different students that flood the halls and fill the labs. Whether it is helping a student with homework, doing practice problems, or sitting down with students to provide some guidance, his interactions with undergraduates always brighten his day.
Mike notes that everyday is different and that there is always a surprise. He said the constants he counts on are Matt Young sneaking up to his office door and a core group of students that he gets to see every day.
Mike recounted a fun memory after I jokingly asked what his favorite lunch is. Not too long ago, a group of undergraduate science majors witnessed the most remarkable lunch in the history of lunches. One day, Mike ventured to the break room where students are typically sprinkled on the couch or hunched over a table scrambling to complete an assignment to heat up some food. Mike was at the counter with a Ziplock bag of pea soup. This method of soup transport was bewildering but also gave everyone a good laugh. He shook his head, “I just won’t ever live it down!”
Mike is truly valued within the Science Building by both students and faculty who can count on him to lend a hand in the lab and to give someone a laugh. When I asked Matt Young about Mike, he smiled and said that “Mike is the Chewy to my Han Solo. My go to guy.” Tod Ramseyer added that, “I can’t top a Star Wars reference, but I can say that Mike does a great job and makes the work we do as faculty possible.”