A Day in the Dining Commons

Today is the day. The day you spend rolling your neck, cracking your knuckles, and straightening your back. This is the morning. The morning you drag yourself out of bed before anyone else even hits snooze. This is the evening. The evening you are constantly rushing in order to keep everyone satisfied. Today is the day. It is your shift, and you will be working non-stop until you clock out. After all, working for Sodexo is the hardest student job on campus. Did you expect it to be easy?

So what does it take to work for the hardest student job on campus? It takes people like Katie Risley and Gaelan Campbell. Risley is the kind of freshman you would like to have around on a rainy day. Her sparkling smile and personality are matched only by her sunshine locks of hair. Campbell is your on-the-town freshman, with a style all his own and a grin that could win over the hearts of millions. Though Campbell and Risley have many differences between them, the two have one major thing in common: both of them work for Sodexo.

Sodexo is the food preparation department responsible for every meal in the dining commons. They provide the coffee at the Jammin’ Java, the cookies at the Breezeway, and the food at almost every event on campus, including homecoming. So why would Risley and Campbell want a Sodexo job if the workload is so trying? Though it’s the highest-paying job on campus, it certainly isn’t easy. “It’s work. You’re not sitting around. You are constantly moving,” says Campbell. “If I’m gonna earn more money than anyone else, I’d better be working.”

Risley describes her days at Sodexo as “super busy.” A typical day starts off with retrieving her uniform and hairnet from Walton’s basement. From there it can go in any direction from serving pizzas to making sandwiches at the deli to sweeping the cafeteria. Campbell’s day starts before the sunrise. At 5 a.m. he is out of bed and arrives at work in his pajamas. After he changes into his uniform, he starts his daily routine of getting breakfast ready.

Working at the Dining Commons requires a good deal of patience and a knack for customer service. This is no problem for Risley, because she greatly enjoys serving others. “I’ve always been a people person,” says Risley. “I enjoy seeing people that I know and talking with them.”

Though the hours may be long, the Sodexo staff does whatever it takes to keep their heads up. “We all try to make it as fun as we can. Because it’s a grueling job, we want it to feel like a good time,” says Risley. She and Campbell’s managers are very encouraging to their staff, because they know how tough of a job it is.

One of the most difficult aspects of working for Sodexo is the amount of varying opinions you will receive. Risley remarks that “it’s such a changin’ thing,” and you never can tell what students will think of the day’s meal. Sodexo sends out surveys to Eastern students in order to determine what foods people want to eat, but someone’s favorite is usually not everyone’s. “That’s the thing with food…In the library you’re handing out books and laptops, but in Sodexo everyone is unique, so they’re going to like different foods,” says Risley. One of the hardest aspects of being on the food staff is accommodating for everyone’s different choices in taste and texture. What might be a delicacy to one could practically be poison to another. “We have the allergy bar so we need to make sure to not cross-contaminate… there is the possibility of cross contamination and we warn them about that, but we do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

Another aspect of Campbell and Risley’s jobs are keeping the kitchen and the dining commons in tip-top shape. According to Campbell the dessert room is cleaned once an hour, and people do not consider how much work it takes to keep it clean. Some act inconsiderately and fail to clean up the messes they make or pick up their trash. “I can’t say anything to these people…it gets really aggravating. These people feel entitled,” says Campbell.

For Risley though, any long day is brightened with the smallest of compliments. One time she was working at the deli and one of her friends told her she just made a really nice tuna melt. “Little things like that remind me I’m doing something beneficial for the students.” When you work all day it feels great to receive anything from a good review to a simple thank you.

Working for Sodexo is a demanding job, and it is surprising to see that neither Campbell nor Risley have caved under all of the pressure. While it is a hard job, it could be much easier if Eastern’s students treated the dining commons with the same respect its employees give it. The dining commons is as much a part of Eastern’s campus as the beautiful trees and the well-kept residence halls are. “Treat the dining commons like you live here,” says Campbell. “Eastern is your home… and you’re sharing it with a bunch of other people, so do your part.”

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