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Students show their appreciation for H&D

Francesca Nemati / Thresher

By Shruti Patankar     10/17/23 11:40pm

When most of campus is in bed, recovering from Pub or a late night studying at Fondren, Sandra Salgado is preparing to leave her house at 4:15 a.m. Salgado, a cashier at North Servery, starts her shift at 5:30 a.m. and works six days per week. She was previously employed at a nearby warehouse and would visit campus during her breaks. 

“I thought [the campus] was so beautiful. I just wanted to sit in the parks,” Salgado said. 

While  visiting, she heard that Housing & Dining had job openings. It’s been two years since she joined the team, and she spends her shifts doing everything from cleaning and disinfecting to refilling silverware and food items. Her favorite part, however, is swiping students into the servery during meals. 

“I love when the kids come in. I can see their smiling faces and I’m so happy to meet them,” Salgado said. 

Many workers mentioned that the most rewarding aspect of their job was seeing students — meeting them, hearing about their lives or watching them enjoy a particular menu item. North Servery’s executive chef, Sing Yam, highlighted how important student feedback is for his job. 

“I like meeting students every day. I’m trying to do anything to make the servery how [the students] want it to be,” he said. “I can’t make changes until students give us more feedback. I want to make North’s salad bar better, for example. There’s always room for improvement.”

Yam grew up in Arizona, working at his family’s Chinese restaurant. He started off as a cashier, working his way up to a cook and eventually attending culinary school. The opportunity to work at Rice appealed to him because of the freedom he would have in designing a menu. 

“I love being here,” Yam said. “There’s a lot of creative room for me.”

Like Salgado, Yam works long hours, spending many of them running from station to station to ensure food quality or going over menu details with the chefs.

“I get here and walk through the whole kitchen from front to back, checking everything ... Throughout the day I just walk around and make sure everything looks great,” Yam said. “Before I leave, I make sure dinner is going out on time and tastes great.” 

 Martel College President Katelynn Porras is leading an initiative to recognize H&D workers by bringing them to the forefront of student life. 

“I really wanted to do something that was more than just a dinner, just a poster hung up at the end of the year,” Porras, a senior, said. 

A running slideshow in Martel Commons now features a detailed profile on the college’s main H&D employees with information about the languages they speak and the TV shows they enjoy in their free time. These profiles create a way for students to connect with employees. 

Martel is not alone in their drive to include H&D in college culture. Will Rice College has a banner adorned with appreciation messages from students. Lovett College releases a yearly merchandise drop from which all proceeds are donated to the H&D staff.

“We have posters up featuring our associates, and while it’s important to honor them … we should also honor the people that we see every day, meal after meal,” Porras said. 

Porras also notes the importance of simply being considerate, from sorting dishes correctly to collapsing boxes before recycling them. 

“A lot of people don’t know how to pick up after themselves … H&D has to do more work,” Porras said. “Maintaining cleanliness is one thing, but they shouldn’t be having to take dishes out of the trash can.”

A critical focus of Martel’s initiative is not just honoring H&D, but extends to including them within the community.  

“They’re Martelians too,” Porras said. “Culture of care includes H&D.”

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