Katie Grogan’s official role may be as director of operations for the Athletics Department, but she has her fingers in many pies. In addition to having served on at least five campus committees, she is the co-chair of the Administrator and Staff Council and an academic advisor at the Advising Center. She has also worked with various student organizations — Grogan was even recognized in the spring of 2015 as Student Organization Advisor of the Year for her work with the Occidental Dance Team.
“That meant a lot because I was nominated by the students and recognized by my colleagues,” Grogan said.
As director of operations, Grogan is responsible for overseeing, scheduling and maintaining all of the athletic facilities. In total, she manages intramurals, seven club sports, 21 varsity teams and about 300 external rentals. These facility rentals are crucial to the functioning of Athletics’ facilities, since the department is not fully funded by the college.
Grogan, who hails from the Bronx, New York City, first came to Occidental in 2011, when she was hired part-time to fill in for an employee on medical leave. Working under Associate Vice President for Hospitality Services Amy Muñoz, Grogan served as hospitality services coordinator, assisting with weddings and other events.
“Clients absolutely loved [Grogan] and so did we,” Muñoz said via email. “She’s flexible and creative in all things.”
An opening in Athletics allowed Grogan to transition into higher education programming, which was the kind of work she had been seeking. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from the University of La Verne and Master of Science in Education Administration from Fordham University. Grogan says these align perfectly with her current position as an administrator at a liberal arts college. She has now been working in Athletics for three years.
And no two days of those three years have felt the same for her. Although paperwork, scheduling and meetings are constants for her, there are many miscellaneous tasks that she takes on, such as picking up the Oswald the Tiger suit from the dry cleaner’s. Additionally, emergencies often arise that she must contend with. She considers herself somewhat of a firefighter, as she is constantly having to adjust and adapt to changing situations.
“I think some of the unexpectedness makes it great,” Grogan said. “But it also makes it a little nerve-wracking sometimes.”
The emergencies she deals with concern facilities, students, events or any combination of the three. Such emergencies have included bleachers that wouldn’t open, students who have been injured and subsequently hospitalized and stadiums that have needed to be evacuated due to inclement weather.
“Luckily [emergencies] are usually few and far between,” Grogan said. “The stuff we can prevent, we usually do.”
Grogan does much of this preventative work behind the scenes. According to Director of Athletics Jaime Hoffman, she is both proactive and organized, anticipating issues and addressing them before they escalate.
Although much of Grogan’s work goes unrecognized, she enjoys observing the fruits of her labor from a distance.
“I think a lot of times [the most fulfilling aspect of my job is] being able to sit back and watch a lot of things fall into place,” Grogan said. “People aren’t going to know it’s me.”
Grogan has overheard students discussing games or events that she played a role in organizing and is gratified to learn that her work has allowed students to enjoy themselves beyond merely celebrating victories against opposing teams. Their interactions with coaches and staff, she finds, are ultimately more memorable for students than their wins.
Students are in fact a large part of why Grogan finds Occidental such a fulfilling work environment. According to her, Occidental students are smart, talented and engaged with their surroundings. She also notes the dedication of Occidental’s faculty and staff and appreciates that almost everyone on campus is willing to be of assistance in any given situation. This is in sharp contrast to her past work experiences at corporate companies such as Build-A-Bear and Ridemakerz.
“Everybody is here for a good purpose,” Grogan said. “I don’t think anybody works at Oxy for the money; they work at Oxy because they love it.”
She also loves the family feel of Occidental’s community and the school’s unique position as a liberal arts college within a large city, which she describes as the best of both worlds. She resides in close proximity to campus, allowing her to more easily attend home games and student performances such as Dance Production.
“We have all the benefits of being in Southern California and being close to LA,” Grogan said. “But we also get that small hometown feel of Eagle Rock.”
One of the challenges Grogan faces is distributing the limited resources that are available to Athletics since all of their facilities and funds are shared between many different groups. She sometimes finds it difficult to communicate to some groups why others’ needs must be prioritized above their own. For example, a team whose sport is in season would likely have priority for a facility in which to practice over an out-of-season team.
Grogan particularly values the support system that Occidental provides its students with in terms of study abroad opportunities, meeting graduation requirements and concerns regarding transferring. She did not have a positive experience with advising as an undergraduate and thus enjoys being able to be of assistance to students who need guidance via the Advising Center.
She does wish, however, that members of the Occidental community — staff members in particular — would exhibit more school spirit and be more involved in campus events. Grogan thinks that people are often torn in too many directions. In addition, some feel as though activities are limited to the student population. Thus, one of her goals is to build a more inclusive sense of campus involvement, including social events that will enable people to get out of their offices and build relationships.
Expanding involvement with student engagement will play a role in this. Grogan values the opportunities she has to participate in community service days alongside students. She also wants to expand Athletics’ reach to non-athletes. In addition to wellness classes and the fitness center, renovations to other facilities that would be open to non-athletes are currently in the works, such as an aquatics center and tennis courts.
“I would really love to not only get those [other facilities] built in the next couple years but then also spend the rest of that decade programming them and creating those experiences and memories for new classes,” Grogan said.
Increasing engagement across the board is a vital component of Grogan’s long-term goal to build a legacy on campus that will allow her to have a lasting impact on multiple generations. She named former Director of Campus Safety Holly Nieto, who worked at Occidental for 36 years, as an inspiration.
This is why one of Grogan’s favorite events of the year is the annual employee recognition lunch, during which staff and administrators are recognized with various awards. Nearly all of Occidental’s employees are present at the event, including cleaning staff, campus safety officers, coaches and staff from the financial aid and admissions offices. According to Grogan, this is a rare occurrence.
Although such all-inclusive events hold a special place in her heart, some of Grogan’s most memorable experiences have occurred during workdays. She recalls a particularly meaningful interaction she had with a men’s ultimate frisbee player who required her assistance with paperwork. Even though she felt like she was merely doing her job, he expressed his appreciation for her always-open door, her positive attitude and her constant willingness to help.
Hoffman echoed the student’s sentiments and acknowledges Grogan’s dedication to the Occidental community beyond merely Athletics.
“[Grogan] is a fabulous team player that is engaged at every level in finding ways to positively represent Occidental College,” Hoffman said via email.
Grogan considers the “say yes” philosophy to be part of her personality. She characterizes herself as someone who wants to help and be involved and attributes her widespread campus involvement to these traits.
Another aspect of Grogan’s personality that both Hoffman and Muñoz see in her is her creativity and wit. According to Hoffman, Grogan has played a role in designing and branding for the athletics department and often sends out email updates with cleverly-worded subjects. For instance, an email sent to inform coaches of a heightened incidence of door propping was titled “Prop it like it’s hot.”
Additionally, Grogan keeps a list on her office whiteboard of some of the most interesting questions she has received on the job, such as “Can you bury my father in Kemp Stadium?” and “Can I land my helicopter on Patterson Field?”
Outside of work, Grogan enjoys traveling. She visited Alaska earlier this year and typically returns to New York at least once annually to visit family. She also loves celebrating holidays.
Although Grogan has a lot on her plate, she successfully juggles all of her responsibilities. She does not deny that there are certain times that can be particularly challenging, but she persists out of love for her work at Occidental.
“There are very few days that actually feel like work,” Grogan said. “When you love what you’re doing, it’s easy to find that balance.”