You’ve met the dads — now it’s time to meet the moms. The News talked to four Yale Moms and gleaned a glimpse into the lives of these amazing women. And it’s not going to stop here: In this new WKND series, we’ll be profiling all the members of the Yale family. So if you have a relative you’d like us to meet, don’t hesitate to email us!
Without further ado, let us introduce the moms:
A bookshelf can be spied behind Mary Rodrigues as she joins our Zoom call from her home in Wolcott, Connecticut. The bookshelf seems anything but out of place; Rodrigues holds a bachelor’s in English as well as a master’s in education. Since 2014, she has worked for the state of Connecticut as a disability examiner, where she helps to determine if people meet the criteria to qualify for disability insurance through Social Security.
A large part of Rodrigues’ job involves reading a person’s medical records and writing a synopsis of them, which she then presents to a doctor. It’s a bit coincidental that she ended up in her current position, because after receiving her bachelor’s, she was hired by the federal government to work for Social Security, essentially doing the “front end” of the job she has now (i.e. sending Social Security applications to the office where she currently works). It was also while in that position that Rodrigues attended night school to pursue her master’s degree.
Rodrigues didn’t go straight from that job to her current one, though. After having her twin daughters, one of whom is a first year at Yale, she left her job to stay home with them for six years, “which was probably six of the most wonderful years ever,” Rodrigues said.
Once her girls entered kindergarten, Rodrigues went to reenter the workforce but found that her previous job was no longer available as a result of the 2008 market crash. She began working as a teacher, though was forced to change the grade level which she taught every year, due, she thinks, to the state of the economy. “It was kind of the experience of maybe being a first year teacher for like six consecutive years,” Rodrigues explained. Her current job eventually surfaced, and it was a perfect fit for her.
Working full time and having two children resulted in Rodrigues pushing her hobbies to the side a bit. She enjoys taking early morning walks with friends and hosting neighbors while her family makes use of their pizza oven, but she’s hoping that with her girls going off to college, she’ll have time to pick up painting again. The timing of her plans has changed a bit though. “COVID happened and our nest suddenly got full again (which we’re very happy about) but yeah, we’ll get to the hobbies soon,” she said.
Having changed career paths multiple times and now being in a position that she greatly enjoys, Rodrigues has some advice: “Keep checking in with yourself and seeing what makes you feel joyful. … You’re changing everyday, you’re not the same person you were yesterday. … Just keep an open mind.”
Le Wilson sits in a seemingly comfortable leather chair in the office in her home, though that’s not where she spends her days. She doesn’t need a dedicated quiet area to do her work, so you’ll find her sitting at the kitchen breakfast table surrounded by windows or at the kitchen island. She works for a master data management software company, which takes organizations’ data and helps to clean it and make it compliant. Her role is that of senior tester, meaning that Wilson tests the software that the company uses and minimizes the bugs which it has. In addition to this, she also takes on other responsibilities such as hosting planning sessions with different R&D teams and discussing the new features of the software.
Wilson was originally introduced to this line of work during a co-op program she participated in while pursuing her bachelor’s in computer engineering at Georgia Tech. She later tried to get into consulting, but discovered that in that field she was having to deploy software which she didn’t have control over — software with bugs that she was powerless to fix. “Quality assurance is where my passion is, so I ended up going back — getting out of consulting — and going back to testing,” Wilson said. She has been working in that area ever since.
It was also at Georgia Tech where Wilson became a first-generation college student. Born in Vietnam and of Chinese descent, Wilson and her parents became part of the Vietnamese boat people as they migrated to the United States after the Vietnam War. They were sponsored by a church group and to this day keep in touch with the affiliated family. Wilson was around 4 or 5 years old when she came to the U.S. “I don’t remember anything other than Georgia,” she said. As a result of her background, she lacked knowledge about the higher education system but applied to one university and was accepted. Now, she and her husband have been able to help guide their daughters, the younger of whom is a current high school senior, through their own college application processes.
As a self-described “gymnastics [and] tennis mom,” Wilson has always dedicated a lot of time to supporting her two daughters in their athletics, and it was actually through her younger daughter that Wilson got into tennis herself. She’d originally picked up the sport to help her daughter warm up before matches, but has now been playing for around two years and is the captain of a tennis team. In fact, this past Sunday she won her first match of the new season.
Wilson wants kids to know that “their worth is not their accomplishments,” and she shared this piece of advice: “Be more self-aware and know your worth. … You have your accomplishments and you bring that along with you, but it’s not who you are.”
Rebecca Tucker-Smith is Zooming in from her she-shed in western Massachusetts. While watching HGTV on a girls’ weekend a year ago, she saw women making sheds in their backyards into places for arts and crafts, calling them she-sheds for fun. After returning home from her getaway, she decided to make her own — and just in time for the pandemic. Now the “shed,” decorated and appearing as more of a home office than anything, is where she Zooms into her part-time job as a high school English teacher, while spending the rest of her time working on her novel.
She says that she is a reader who always wanted to be a writer. In her classroom, she hopes to bring new books that “reflect different voices.” The class is currently reading “Circe” by Madeline Miller, a Greek myth retelling. After being diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, she chose to change her teaching hours to part time in order to pursue writing actively. She clarified that stepping down from full-time work was not a decision made out of health concerns, rather it was made out of a love for writing. It was around this time that she started loving Bitmojis.
Tucker-Smith soon decided to write about her fondness for them. The essay “spilled out of her ” and she got to work with an editor when it was published in Oprah. The process of writing and editing professionally further reasserted that she wanted to be a writer.
“I felt that the Bitmoji was this way of communicating and having this alternate persona that you have a little control over. When you have cancer, you don’t have a lot of control and we, really, in life just don’t have a lot of control,” she said. “How do you let your story be what you want your story to be?”
Now her novel — a few years in the making — is done. After years of struggling to sit down and write without a plot in mind, she felt that a story came to her. Tucker-Smith says the process was “emotionally cathartic” and that what matters most is that she likes the novel she wrote. She finished it over a year ago and let it sit for some time, struggling to go back and not knowing how to start the editing process. Currently, she is in the process of pitching the novel to publishing companies.
“I just want to try. … I want to see this through. There’s no version of this where I feel like I’ve failed,” she said. “My goal was never to publish a novel, it was to write one. … The target audience of this book is me.”
Miriam “Mimi” Wallk
Calling from Chicago, Miriam “Mimi” Wallk says that “no days are the same.” As the global marketing director for an international management consulting firm, she works with “new and exciting” content to develop materials that interact with a broad client base every day. This can span from graphic design to podcasts or videos.
She didn’t always plan on working in marketing. After graduating from Brown with a degree in religious studies and from the University of Chicago with a master’s in social sciences, Wallk initially planned on pursuing a career in clinical psychology. Her interest in seeing how companies work “across borders” propelled her to attend Columbia and receive a master’s in international studies. Her love for traveling has led her to live across the U.S. and in Europe for some time, before settling back down in Chicago.
Now, the COVID pandemic has allowed her to interact routinely with employees across the world in a “democratizing” way.
“Sometimes we concentrate on differences between people and between different groups, and I think one thing about COVID was that it was like we were all dealing with this at the same time,” she said.
Outside of work, she loves the arts. Wallk spoke enthusiastically about her recent love for Debussy and how much she misses theatre, noting that “music can be quite captivating.” Going to local amphitheaters with her husband is some of what she misses the most. Even so, she has found entertainment in reading. Her interests range from nonfiction and historical books to Jane Austen novels, which she fondly spoke of as her comfort books.
In regards to motherly advice, she recalls something her father told her: “Find what you love, and do what you love.” Wallk emphasized the importance of being authentic, spending time with people you care about and having passion for what you do. She also shared some advice she gave her daughters, before they left for college:
“Soak it up. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. … Put yourself out there, try new things.”
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