Please share a little about yourself – feel free to include a fun fact!
Hello hello! My name is Dr. Alyssa Ida Pintar Breen, and I am a wife of Aidan, daughter of Frank and Angela, and mother to Leo and Ansel.
In September 2020, I finished up a postdoctoral research associate position at the Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health (ITR) at the University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities. I am currently staying at home with my two boys (Leo Francis — 3.5 years old, and Ansel Gregory — almost 2 years old) and LOVING it, while also preparing to teach a doctoral-level course in Emotion Development for NYU remotely this Spring (2021).
I am also continuing to look for work to do part time, especially to help benefit the youth of the Catholic Church, ideally involving data management and analysis involving the catechesis and evangelization of young (0-5 years old) children.
Fun fact about me: I mean, I think it’s fun that I’ve been in a few different bands in my lifetime, but I won’t name them here. Genres, however, include instrumental hip hop and garage rock. And I’ve also composed and recorded a minstrel tune on pan flute, which could be my greatest work ever in my life.
Describe your professional work. How were you led to this? What are you passionate about?
I am currently a stay-at-home-mom who is also a recovering academic! I was led to this particular point in my life by Our Lord, Who very clearly asked me to stay home with my children in the midst of looking for a full-time job last summer. I see so much good fruit from the decision already!
“I was led to this particular point in my life by Our Lord, Who very clearly asked me to stay home with my children in the midst of looking for a full-time job last summer.”
My husband, Aidan, works a full-time job (that he got an offer for on the LAST DAY of my postdoctoral position…!) and I am figuring out how to keep (and grow!) my passion for producing and effectively communicating good science that helps children, especially those most in need. I’m especially passionate about how good science can be utilized for the building up of the Catholic Church, and creating an environment within the Church that seeks to use social science as a means by which this happens.
What are the personal strengths that you’ve been given and how do you utilize them?
The Lord has blessed me with a beautiful, faith-filled family, which has led to the fostering and development of many strengths within me. I think one of my greatest strengths is my ability to translate the longing of my heart into words and actions, as well as the faith that God continues to pour out into my mind and heart. I seek to be before Our Lord constantly, and I view my faith as my greatest strength and shield.
What women inspire you, and why?
My mom! She’s a warrior mama. After becoming a mother, I am realizing just how much WORK it is to be an excellent mother, and now my mom is my hero!
My paternal grandmother, my Oma, is also a huge role model in my life. Oh man… she just had a presence, a peace, a joy about her, and she lived through such traumatic times on this earth (WWII and the aftermath) with patience, grace, and strength. She also was the best cook ever, gave birth to seven children, and cared for my Opa (grandpa) who had Alzheimer’s for 20 years. Memories of our family’s weekly Sunday dinners at Oma and Opa’s are some of my greatest treasures!
Are there friends and mentors that you depend upon? How do they support you?
The short answer is YES. In all caps. I have a group of three other friends (all women) from undergrad affectionately called “The Donuts.” We have maintained the closeness of our relationships over the past decade (!!!) through many life transitions, and we all love Jesus and His Church! They ground me, make me laugh, and comfort me so well.
I also would not have received my PhD had it not been for the amazing, steadfast, courageous group of three ladies from doctoral work! They gave me confidence in myself when I had none, and are amazing listeners and incredibly brilliant and compassionate women.
“They gave me confidence in myself when I had none, and are amazing listeners and incredibly brilliant and compassionate women.”
My amazing mentor, Dr. Cathie Tamis-LeMonda must also be named here! She started co-advising me during my third year of doctoral work and went with me line by line through my papers to help me learn to write scientific journal articles. She also helped me through some really tough personal times in graduate school, and was definitely an open ear and shoulder to lean on when I needed a safe space to talk about bigger life issues with professors.
What is the best advice/encouragement you’ve received about vocational discernment?
The best advice has definitely been from my dad, Frank Pintar, when I was doing my undergraduate studies. I remember talking on the phone with my dad after a child psychology lecture and I was still so sad from a break-up with a college boyfriend and my dad was checking in on me. I remember trying to explain to him that he could still ask me to be his wife one day (lol nope) and thinking of putting my education to a halt (I was thinking about applying to graduate school for doctoral programs in child psychology) and my dad just said, “Alyssa, you do not wait for any man.” And I was cut to the core. It just made sense and brought me back to reality and was a voice of my dad who has unconditionally loved me from day one and helped me wake up from my own imagination of what-my-life-could-be.
“Alyssa, you do not wait for any man.”
The other bit of Frank Pintar advice came in my undergraduate studies when I was contemplating dropping out of the University of Minnesota and trying to go the music route instead (I had played piano seriously for a decade and wanted to be a band director but didn’t get into music school!). When I was comparing child psychology and music, my dad gave me the advice to “think of what hurts your heart the most in the world AND what you’re very gifted in and could make an impact”, like a venn diagram, “and think about where the intersection is.” That really helped me see that my desire to do music was more coming out of a selfish intention than I had realized, and also that where I want to make an impact, with this finite life I’ve been given, is in the lives of children who need the most help.
“Think of what hurts your heart the most in the world AND what you’re very gifted in and could make an impact”, like a venn diagram, “and think about where the intersection is.”
Prayer is essential for everyone, but especially for women who are active in the life and mission of the Church. Do you have any favorite devotions or prayers?
A prayer routine that has served me very well over the past year has been the following: Early in the morning, before checking any email, I read and ponder the Daily Readings. Then, I write down what stands out to me on a post-it note and put it on the wall by my desk. I close by praying the St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Prayer before study” and then St. Elizabeth of the Trinity’s “Prayer to The Trinity.” I was honestly a little hesitant to pray the “Prayer to The Trinity” when I started (because it is a BOLD prayer!), but I have grown to truly love and savor it. Also I have really grown to love Our Lady in contemplating her beautiful perspective in the mysteries of the rosary. (Usually I pray it on the treadmill.)
” I was honestly a little hesitant to pray the “Prayer to The Trinity” when I started (because it is a BOLD prayer!), but I have grown to truly love and savor it.”
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
The whole Bible. Just kidding. Anything from St. Therese of Lisieux. Lately I’ve been getting into the works of Dr. Maria Montessori and a quote that I have on a notecard on my fridge has been, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” It’s really helped me live more simply and orderly! And also these verses from 1 Corinthians, which I placed at the beginning of the acknowledgements of my dissertation (after discerning against using a dramatic, lamenting Psalm about being in a pit, haha):
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”
These words really help melt the “pure” desire for knowledge and scientific advancement and fun research and assimilate it with a desire for using my gifts, in love, to build up the Body of the Church. Science is just science (a clanging cymbal) if it’s not done in love and good intentions, and communicated poorly.
What were your key takeaways from the 2016 GIVEN Forum?
Oh man… the key takeaway was a picture. At the last get-together, I think it was a brunch, one by one, the representatives from each religious community took their turn to stand up and be called by their names… It was so powerful! To see each community with their own special charism and devotion and theme… it was opening my eyes to see the beauty of the Church in a new way. The diversity and unity at the same time was striking!
“The diversity and unity at the same time was striking!”
What was your GIVEN action plan? Describe its mission, audience, and impact.
My action plan with had to do with putting on a worship evening with the theme of Mercy (I think it was in the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis), with the intentional use of worship music from Bethel and Hillsong, trying to bring in some powerful Protestant / Evangelical songs into a Catholic worship setting. I was raised in the non-denominational / evangelical church and received an incredibly rich education about our faith, and I converted to Catholicism in college (thanks, Saint Paul’s Outreach! Oh yeah, and The Holy Spirit) so I wanted to merge my two histories and use my gifts in playing piano, singing, and leading worship to benefit my community. I also worked with a friend to give a meditation about mercy before we went into song. The evening was so beautiful… so many people came to worship in a quiet, beautiful space, and I think everyone left feeling much more peaceful and comforted than when they first walked in the door.