What has been your proudest career accomplishment within the last year?

This past year, I took over management of the Maize and Blue Cupboard, the student food pantry on campus. Throughout the year, I could tell just how much I was learning about the work, but also about myself during that transition. Being able to do such fulfilling work during a time when everything seemed chaotic was very rewarding.

How has the COVID pandemic changed your approach to foodservice?

Working at the Cupboard during COVID has really opened my eyes to the food insecurity crisis on college campuses. On this campus, roughly 30% of students have faced some level of food insecurity. Knowing that, I try to be much more empathetic to the students because they are facing a lot more challenges than administrators may have realized. 

Before COVID, procedures were much different at the Cupboard in regard to shoppers, how they were greeted and the intake process. Because we had to manage the number of shoppers and spacing during the pandemic, we began to greet them at the door. This is something that has made the Cupboard feel much less intimidating to new shoppers because we are there to greet them and answer any questions before they even step inside. We plan to continue this even after the pandemic is over to keep our shoppers feeling seen and welcomed.

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?

The best career advice I’ve been given is that you only have to be 60% ready for your next job, so if you have a good base of knowledge, you can use your other skills to pull you the rest of the way through. No one is ever fully prepared for the next step. The other piece of advice I was given early on in my career was that you can lead your people in any direction, so be mindful of where you are leading them.

What do you value most in a workplace?

Integrity and fun. I try to create that environment for my team, so they know we are here to get the work done but to have fun while we are doing it. I think when you establish a space of integrity, you give students a safe space to make mistakes where they can learn from trying things.

I think the “fun” of a workplace is what makes people want to come back. If we can’t find a single thing to laugh about during the day, we’re doing it wrong.