Towson Bunch: Service workers behind the scenes
Sometimes all it takes is a smile to brighten someone’s day. No one knows this better than Deborah Reid, better known as Ms. Debbie. Even at 8:30 on a Wednesday morning, she has a smile and a “Happy Wednesday” to offer.
Reid is the cashier at the Glen Dining Hall. Reid said she tries to she creates a special bond with the students who cross her path.
Those that have left even come back to pay me a visit, “ she said.
People can’t help but leave the Glen with a smile, Reid said.
Reid is originally from Baltimore, Md. and has been working here at Towson for 26 years as of Sept. 4, she said.
“I love what I do. I’ve been doing it so long,” she said.
The students who frequent the Glen know that Reid never fails to make your day. That’s part of her job, she said, and her interaction with the students is great, and that’s what makes her so memorable. Some days, you may even catch Reid dancing at her cash register. One thing’s for sure though, Reid said, she will always care about the students.
“I love all of my [students],” she said. “I call them all my children.”
Susquehanna dining hall worker Nakisha Buckson grew up hearing about the Towson University dining hall system. Her mother has been working in Susq for nearly 25 years and her sister is the supervisor of Newell and has been working there for 17 years. Buckson herself has been working in Susq for 16 years, she said.
Buckson’s job at Susq is working the floor, doing whatever anyone needs her to do at any given time and to always wear a smile, she said.
“You have some students come in here and they have their moments,” Buckson said. “But for the most part you have students that are pretty nice. But sometimes y’all will be cramming with the books and you’ll have your moments.”
By working the floor around Susq, Buckson said she has been given extra opportunity to talk to students and get to know them.
“[I] like to be the counselor when they come through,” Buckson said. “I get a couple who come in and start talking because they’re stressed out about home life and need someone to just talk to.”
Susquehanna Dining Hall worker Dionna Green was working at Notre Dame of Maryland University when she was referred to work at Towson University. The move, Green said, has been worth it. She works the cash register in Susq, which means she works closely with students at the dining hall each day. Green said working the cash register has allowed her to get to know many of students and even form friendships. As a cashier, Green said it’s her job to talk to students as they pass through and check in with them to see how their day is going.
“Even if you’re all having a bad day we’re supposed to bring up your spirits. You know, like ‘How are you feeling today, what’s going on?” Green said. Staying positive and having a good attitude are key when working at a college dining hall, Green said.
Sophomore Brianne Lanphear, a sports management major said cashiers like Green are always open to having conversations with students.
“[She is] really nice and [she] smiles at you and asks how you are,” Lanphear said. “If you’re nice back you’ll have a nice conversation.”
Students need a pick-me-up to help them get to classroom for those early 8 a.m. courses. Many of those students find themselves ordering a Vanilla Hazelnut Latte or Salted Caramel Mocha, but they said their real jump-start in the morning is seeing Tanya Miller.
Interacting with students on campus is also one of Miller’s highlights of the day.
Giving back to the students through her work has allowed her to become one of the most well-known faces on campus, she said.
“I love working with the students, they are very respectful. I have given them advice, as their mother figure.” Miller said.
Not only does Miller interact with her students here on campus but also off campus. Often running into students off campus at the movies or in the local Towson area has allowed her to make a deep relationship with her students.
Miller feels that she can connect to the students but also provide for them through the food she is able to serve them.
“I love Tanya,” junior Hailey Ferguson said. “She’s great, she’s precious.”
‘Hey baby! How you been?’ Den cashier Sabrina Carvens said to nearly every student who passed through on her night shifts. She’s always smiling, and no one manages to leave her line without a smile, too.
“I love working for the students,” she said. “And my coworkers are like my family.”
In fact, Sabrina is probably one of the only workers that you may have as a contact in your phone. Several students like to call and check up on her to see how she’s doing, to pay forward the compassion she has for them.
One student was sitting out in the Den crying, she said. So she went up and put her arms around her and made sure she was okay. After offering her number, they keep in touch and check in on each other.
When she leaves her shifts around 11:30 p.m. Sabrina said she looks forward to relaxing. She calls Baltimore home, and is now raising her family of three girls, one boy and her cat, Tigger. She said she’s a family woman and loves going out to eat and spending time with them. Every year Sabrina said she looks forward to watching the fireworks on her birthday, July 4.
Previous to her work on Towson’s campus, Sabrina worked at the State Office Building. Then, in 2001 she began employment on campus for Aramark, Towson’s previous cleaning service, and the Den. Then in 2003 she stopped working at Aramark, and only worked in the Den, and is still there to this day.
She said she enjoys dancing, reading urban fiction, cooking (especially her favorite, lasagna), listening to R&B, watching documentaries and the Science Channel.
Leaving his family and childhood home behind, Bennie Davis moved to Baltimore from Georgia, and began working for Towson University Dining Services. He works in Patuxent in the morning making paninis and he works in Susquehanna at night making salads. He’s been working on this schedule for four years now. Davis said that if he didn’t love working with the students so much, he wouldn’t be doing this.
“It’s a pleasure, I love every minute of it,” Davis said. “If it weren’t for the students here I wouldn’t have a job. So I’ve got to love them.”
Davis said that though his days are long, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and always have a smile on. You can never let the small things get to you, he said.
“You’ve got to keep a positive attitude and not let anything take that away,” Davis said.
Many students agree that it’s nice to see a friendly face even when you’re having a bad day.
“He’s always really nice and personable,” sophomore Kelsey Zarlenga said.
Nine years ago this November, ABM housekeeper Allen Pettijohn began working for Towson under Aramark. Three years after he began, he was placed as a housekeeper in Towson Run Apartments. He still works in that building to this day.
“It’s been positive all of the years I’ve been here,” Pettijohn said. “[The residents and staff members] have become like family to me.”
Pettijohn said it’s important to get to know the students and to form relationships with them, whether that means helping someone out or just brightening someone’s day with a smile.
“Move-in day is fun,” Pettijohn said. “I’ll help kids carry their stuff to their apartment or whatever.”
One specific memory that sticks out to Pettijohn was a student who lived in Towson Run several semesters back, he said.
“She had this wheelchair so I would help her out, I became very close with her,” Pettijohn said. “I would help her carry things to her apartment and all that kind of stuff.”
Denise Lewis works at Towson to help support her two children both boys, one who is in ninth grade and one in seventh.
Originally, Lewis was working with ABM at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, until she was moved to Towson.
“I heard that Towson was a good school, and I was definitely right,” Lewis said.
Currently, Lewis works on the janitorial staff, cleaning the dining halls once they are closed. Lewis described herself as a hard worker, who is willing to talk to anyone.
“I am just a friendly person,” she said. “I love talking to students who come in and out of here, and I always talk to my coworkers, everyone here is so nice to me.”
Because Lewis is so talkative, she said the fact that she is around people all day is her favorite part of the job, and she has never met a student that she didn’t like interacting with.
Lewis said she knows all of the student groups in the Union, and makes her way around the Union at night cleaning, which is tiring but said she still enjoys her job day-in and day-out.