While back-to-school elicits images of backpacks, books and classroom banter, the campus cafeteria remains a vital place for students to gather, bond and grab a good, nutritious meal.
To meet the demand, and ravenous appetites of the more than 12,000 students at UBC Okanagan this semester, the university is actively recruiting dozens of new food service staff.
“Our campus is well known for its excellence in teaching and research, but few think of the importance that access to balanced, quality and delicious food plays in helping our students, faculty and staff operate at their best,” says Shannon Dunn, Director of Business Operations. “Having passionate and friendly staff both in the kitchen and on the front lines is absolutely critical to delivering on that mission.”
Dunn admits that there’s fierce competition for food service workers in Kelowna but says UBCO offers a unique and attractive package.
“We are focused on providing a workplace that is stable, with regular hours and fulsome benefits,” she says. “Not to mention the opportunity to work on a vibrant, diverse and interesting campus.”
Shelley Buchner, a long-time and well-known cashier in UBCO’s cafeteria, agrees.
“I love getting to know all the faces coming through the till and to see our students grow and develop over the years,” she says. “Many using the cafeteria are in their first year and living away from home on their own for the first time. They are so grateful for a friendly face, a hot meal and even a bit of advice or encouragement from time to time.”
“It has always been a deeply rewarding experience for me,” she adds.
Buchner is almost an icon on campus and will happily help students as they navigate the menu, ask questions about their meal plans, or even just need a friendly good morning smile as they grab a quick coffee.
During her 14 years working on campus, in various food services roles, she’s seen undergraduate students become graduate students and then employees themselves.
“It’s interesting to get to know the professors and staff from across campus that are experts in everything from medicine to engineering to psychology or history. But, of course, none of that matters in the dining room,” she jokes. “We all have to eat so food becomes the great equalizer.”
That’s where Marie Gonzales comes in. As a member of the culinary team, her job is to prepare high-quality, nutritious foods.
“The team cares very deeply about creating meals and food options that bring people joy and comfort, especially those who are away from home for the first time or adjusting to a new place to work and study,” she says. “That sentiment is reflected not only in the food we make but also in how our team works together.”
Gonzales spent more than 20 years working in the food service industry in Mexico City and says coming to work at UBCO is like a dream come true.
“I’ve been exceptionally well supported and the team has been warm, welcoming and eager to help me find ways to develop in my career,” she explains. “Best of all, we get to work with students to create innovative and exciting dishes that they can’t wait to eat.”
She points to connecting with students from Latin countries as a prime example.
“I came to UBCO with lots of traditional and contemporary Mexican recipes that I was eager to share. I quickly got to meet with students from Mexico and Latin America and we were able to put dishes on the menu that helped remind them of the comforts of home,” she says. “It turns out they are also a hit with the rest of the student population so everyone benefits from the power food has to bring us all together—it’s amazing, really.”
But Gonzales notes that a few more hands are needed in the kitchen. And the kitchen sink.
With classes about to start, Dunn agrees they are still actively recruiting for positions in most roles including cooks, cashiers and dishwashers.
“This is a great time to consider working at an energetic, dynamic place like UBCO. I truly believe that an inspired menu and meaningful relationships can be an important factor in helping our students, faculty and staff succeed during their time on campus.”
“I can’t wait to see our team rise to the occasion this fall.”