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Life of a Student Dining Worker: A Labor of Love (And Bacon)

Samantha Orland

*Guest blog by Jake Culberson, Alaskan and fellow Vanderbilt Barnard inhabitant. (Fun Fact: Samantha met him on a Commodore Cruise with Mary Kate! Best friends.)

Jake, proud of his baking abilities.

Needless to say, I never envisioned spending my spare time as a college student wearing a uniform and hustling scrambled eggs. When my sophomore year at Vanderbilt rolled around, however, I realized that it was time to take advantage of the Federal Work-Study program: I needed to get a job. Fortunately, Vanderbilt provides a bevy of sanctioned employment opportunities, all of them tailored to fit the academic and social obligations of students. Having worked fast food in high school, I stuck with what I knew and signed up with Vanderbilt Dining.


From my first day on the job to now, being a student dining worker has been nothing if not a truly edifying experience. From flipping omelets on a Saturday morning to clean up on a Wednesday evening, it is, no doubt, tough work: but many hands, even if they do not make the work lighter, at least make it a lot more fun. The full-time managers are great people and are always looking out for their employees. The cooks are fun to work with and are constantly teaching students little tricks of the trade. The student managers (of which I am now one) are eager to show newcomers the ropes, and there are few better places to find new friends than among one’s fellow student workers.

Almost all student dining workers (including myself, I hope) go on to careers in fields other than food service or restaurant management, but the job has nevertheless honed in myself many important skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Knowing how to work with, for, and over others in simple tasks is a necessary predicate to learning those same dynamics in more complicated environments, and discovering how to effectively discipline myself and organize my time around my differing work, school, and social schedules has been nothing short of invaluable. All of this, however, pales in comparison to the sublime pleasure of perfecting my pancake-flipping technique.

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