The Voice of Western New England University Mary McLean Orszulak Gā€™10

Mary McLean Orszulak G’10 worked at Western New England University for 22 years as Director of Copywriting Services and served as Editor of every iteration of WNE’s alumni magazine. She has truly served as the “Voice” of the University; if you’ve spent any time on our website, reading this magazine, or if a mailed brochure inspired you to attend WNE, then you’ve been touched by Mary’s prolific work. Since her retirement in June 2021, she has been sorely missed. We felt the best way to honor her was to break with tradition and give her the opportunity to tell her own story, in her own words.

On a personal note, it has been an honor to work with Mary. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from the best, but I was fortunate to witness her creativity, compassion, and personal integrity every day. She is a tough act to follow, but we all wish her the best on the next chapter in her life and cannot wait to see what she does next.

–Alex Lyman ’12/G’16

What was your primary responsibility as the former head of the WNE Writing Team?

My job was to share the story of Western New England University with the world!

Your title at the University was Director of Copywriting Services. What did that entail?

I was the lead recruitment content or “copy” writer for the University for 22 years, supervising just one other writer. I oversaw all of the writing, editing, and proofreading for our admissions (Undergraduate, Graduate, Law, Pharmacy, and Health Sciences) projects— everything from web content to brochures, email campaigns, ads, and billboards to video scripts for our 90+ programs. Working with our Alumni Relations partners, I also served as the editor of our alumni magazines, which included five issues a year of The Communicator and Perspectives, and now two of WNE: The Magazine. I’ve done 72 issues in total. The Writing Team also supports a wide range of messaging—internally and externally—including Commencement, SOAR, Open Houses, and more.

What was the most rewarding part of being a leading “Voice” of Western New England University?

I loved interviewing students or working with them early in their academic careers, and then watching their evolution to successful alumni. My goal was for our publications to speak with a unified voice and be authentic to the WNE academic brand. Hearing students in interviews or at Open House or SOAR panels, as well as alumni that I’ve met, voice the same talking points that I had written affirmed that I genuinely captured the unique spirit of the WNE experience.

When you were hired in 1999, admissions marketing efforts focused primarily on print. How would you describe WNE’s integrated approach to marketing its programs today?

Integrated marketing is key in today’s fiercely competitive higher ed landscape. The Marketing and various WNE Enrollment Teams, in collaboration with outside partners, use data-informed communications strategies to build brand awareness that creates engagement. Since your typical high school student is inundated with emails and texts from colleges and universities, print and direct mail do still have their place in reaching them and their families in their homes. With WNE’s long-standing reputation for individualized attention, personal contact is also an important component. I can’t tell you how many times a student or alum has told me that it was getting a call from their dean or department chair that made them choose us.

In 2010, you earned your master’s degree from WNE. Why was that so important to you?

I really, really wanted that WNE grad year after my name to be counted among the more than 45,100 living alumni of this University. I’m a local kid who grew up in the Pine Point neighborhood of Springfield. I attended Duggan (then Junior High) across the street and remember gazing out the window toward the Blake Law Center and feeling as if it were a million miles away from my world. I never imagined that I would work here, earn my master’s, and have two of my sons, Alex Mazzaferro ’09 and Derek Mazzaferro ’16, graduate from here. Alex is now a professor at UCLA and Derek recently returned from two years in California and is working in marketing.

How have your various roles—staff member, alumna, G-Bear mom—helped you to tell the WNE story?

Becoming a student helped me to speak to prospective students through that lens. I am also a mom and stepmom of five; my husband Steve and I have had anywhere from one to three of our kids in college earning various degrees for 16 years straight! So, I have walked in the shoes of our G-Bear families—from the tears of move-in day to the joy of graduation day—many times.

Projects you have worked on in your career have won more than 50 advertising and marketing awards. Can you describe your creative process?

In my work at WNE and ad agencies, I love playing with idiomatic expressions to turn a common phrase into something that captures your attention in a headline and makes you read more, engage, and take action—that’s the ultimate goal. Ads and billboards are two of my favorite things to write, like our longrunning MBA campaign.

The best part about writing for the alumni magazines was the opportunity to share with our readers the accomplishments of the amazing people who make up our community, not just alumni, but students, faculty, staff, and donors.

I also enjoyed stories that covered broader topics in which we showcased our alums or faculty working in fields such as social work, entrepreneurship, or sports. In Perspectives, I got to do fascinating research and interview alumni and faculty for stories spanning social justice, family law, immigration law, green law, same sex marriage, and more.

You started your career wanting to work in the music industry and then went on to write advertising for some big name clients. Tell us about your career before WNE?

I was a college DJ, loved rock, punk, and new wave music, and dressed the part (much to my parents’ dismay). I worked for a Boston-based record store chain in college because I wanted to get into the music industry. They liked some of my ideas and promoted me to assistant manager when I graduated with the idea to move to marketing in corporate down the road. But the music industry in the early ‘80s was pretty wild, so I decided to go in to advertising. I landed a job at a local agency/graphic arts center, which grew to have about 40 employees—most of us in our early twenties. It was a blast. I was the only writer, and I worked on projects for Mattel, Inc.; K-mart International; GE; Coleco, Franklin Sports; and Selchow & Righter (Trivial Pursuit); and locally, the Springfield Indians.

I left to start a family and my own freelance business. When my first marriage to a local entertainer ended shortly after my third child was born, I got a job as the creative director at a B2B agency. I did my first website in the early ‘90s for (Meade) Westvaco. We helped make their Columbian® envelope line #1 in Office Depot® and OfficeMax®. We also did work for Hampden Engineering, and helped Bryant Electric® (Hubbell) become a fixture at Home Depot®.

Being a single mom, I also needed to freelance at night to make ends meet. I collaborated with graphic designers/ad agencies and worked on accounts from Bayer (Agfa) to Goodwill Industries and CandleToppers® (remember them?) to Trotter Treadmills. In 2006 I completed an award-winning history book on Wilbraham & Monson Academy. I stopped freelancing when I remarried that year and started on my master’s.

What were some of your proudest professional moments at WNE?

I was very honored to receive the Faculty/Staff Service award from the Alumni Association in 2003. My two decades at WNE saw such tremendous growth during Dr. Caprio’s transformative tenure, which included earning AACSB International accreditation, opening the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and becoming a university in 2011. But I was never more proud to be a part of the Marketing Team than during President Johnson’s first year leading us through the pandemic. Our team has gone through a lot together—from losing two colleagues to terminal illness to various staffing changes. In 2020, with limited technical resources and unimagined logistical challenges, our team, led by Vice President Bryan Gross, produced a highly successful live virtual open house in just a couple of weeks. That was just the beginning of a year of incredible resourcefulness and creativity, which helped recruit one of our largest incoming freshmen classes in WNE history!

You retired early at 60 from WNE this past June. Will you continue to write?

Like my fellow alumni and colleagues, I found opportunity and community at WNE and for that I am eternally grateful. The pandemic accelerated my retirement plans, so sadly I left WNE earlier than expected. I’ve had many ideas for other forms of writing that I never had the time to pursue. I’ve taken some time to unwind after such a challenging final year, but stay tuned—I’ll be sure to report any news in Class Notes.

A History of Publications

These magazine covers are some of Mary's favorite alumni magazine issues throughout her time as Editor, and represent her breadth and depth of work over the years.