Unseen heroes of Baylor Dining Services

Some employees of Baylor Dining Services have been serving the Baylor community for more than 30 years. Lariat File Photo

By Erianne Lewis | Staff Writer

Regardless of the day or time, when students walk into any Baylor dining venue, they will be greeted by someone on the Dining Services staff. Dining hall chefs prepare carefully made meals for students daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They may break a sweat here and there, but they never let it slow their process as they continue to tend to the needs of thousands of students daily.

The Dining Services staff is composed of a mixture of experience levels with some employees working for more than 30 years. The hard work of the Dining Services staff and supervisors can sometimes be overlooked by students, who are not aware of how much work goes on behind the scenes.

Pamela Davis-Silmon, supervisor at East Village Dining Hall, said August will mark 18 years since she began working with Aramark. Davis-Silmon said her feelings toward the students are evident in the way she constantly refers to them as her “babies.”

Davis-Silmon said tending to thousands of students daily can be exhausting, but she realizes that it is about more than just herself.

“I often wonder what my role is, but through my higher power, I realized I wanted to be a great steward and serve others. In the end, the job is rewarding when you know you help others,” Davis-Silmon said.

Davis-Silmon said the most challenging part of her job is remembering the names of the students, which she prides herself on doing to allow them to feel more comfortable being away from home.

“I try and remember at least 10 [names] a semester. I want the people to feel as though they are home. So, a ‘good morning’ goes a long way,” Davis-Silmon said.

Billy Harris, service supervisor in East Village Dining Hall, said his favorite interaction with a student was when he stepped in to deescalate a difficult situation.

“A student [was] receiving bad service [and] I intervened with great service. Every morning [after], she would find me and speak to me, and [say] goodbye when she left,” Harris said. “It’s rewarding to know students enjoy our services.”

Harris said he constantly works to be the best at the task he is given, regardless of what it is.

“Whether I’m cooking or cleaning, I give it my all,” Harris said.

Linda Akers, a baker for Baylor Dining Services, said a treasured part of her job is receiving positive feedback from students.

“[I enjoy] seeing the enjoyment on the student’s face when they see or taste the product I had a part in making,” Akers said. “I always enjoy when the students personally thank me for all my hard work.”

Linda Benson, supervisor at Penland Dining Hall, said it is challenging serving thousands of students daily, but it is enjoyable seeing the way they react to the food. Benson has been working with Baylor Dining Services for 34 years. She said she appreciates the interactions she has with students with dietary restrictions.

“They always seek me out so that I can make sure they have what they need. These students are always appreciative of the one-on-one service they get,” Benson said.

Sharon McDonald, lead supervisor in Baylor Dining Services, said she wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning to open the building for students. McDonald, who oversees talking to students and taking surveys during specials and promotions, said there are a lot of moving parts behind planning and executing promotions within the Dining Services, but interacting with students makes it all worth it.

“Seeing the joy on their faces when they see what we have planned for them and how much they appreciate the efforts [is something that stood out to me the most],” McDonald said.

Mia Veal, lead supervisor at Chick-Fil-A, said she loves when students come back to visit after graduation. Veal said she has been working for the Baylor Dining Services for 30 years and she loves serving the students, even though it is often times a hurried process.

“[I wish students knew] the time it takes to prepare the food we serve and what is involved with production,” Veal said. “[The] fast pace of the business.”

Davis-Silmon said a memory that she will never forget is an interaction she had with a student and the student’s mom regarding the student’s birthday.

“The students’ mom was a judge, and she was on the bench — her daughter and I had been conversing since orientation — and she called me personally to buy her daughter a cake. When I got the cake, I called her and her daughter. As I took the cake to her, [her] mom was on the phone and we both sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, [and] the student just cried. About a week later, [her] mom had a gift basket sent to me, she stated I had made her daughter’s day,” Davis-Silmon said.