Overwhelming demand creates unexpected work-study opportunities at SuperBlanch

Photo by Yingke Yang ’20  Deirdre Lewis ’21, a student worker at the new Blanchard Dining Commons, restocks bowls above the cereal display

Photo by Yingke Yang ’20

Deirdre Lewis ’21, a student worker at the new Blanchard Dining Commons, restocks bowls above the cereal display


When Mount Holyoke first made the decision to transition from six dining halls to a centralized dining system, the  question on many students’ minds was whether there would be the same number of work-study opportunities in the new Dining Commons. Until now, Mount Holyoke Dining Services has provided the bulk of jobs for first-year students, and the new dining system marks a dramatic shift in student employment.

In a Nov. 29 meeting with the Student Jobs Working Group in Mount Holyoke’s senate, Director of Dining Richard Perna and Chef Manager Richard Rigali estimated a 25 percent cut in such jobs, according to Senator Sara Sarmiento ’21.

This working group was formed as a result of concerns about the availability of work-study employment after the opening of SuperBlanch, according to Senate Chair Liz Brown ’20.

Previously, all first-year students with work-study eligibility were required to work at least one shift per week in the dining halls. But with the projected decrease in jobs, this requirement was lifted beginning this semester, according to the Career Development Center website.

However, when the Dining Commons officially opened, dining staff struggled to keep up with hectic rushes and other unprecedented problems, and it soon became apparent that more help was needed. 

Deborah Kubwayo ’21 worked in dining services last semester. Although she occasionally substitutes for open shifts this semester, she is mostly working in another job — a position she looked for because she was concerned about receiving “enough hours” if she exclusively worked in dining. 

Something Kubwayo did not expect, however, was that she and other dining workers would soon be receiving multiple offers to work additional hours.

“There have been several emails sent out asking students to come in because the dining center was in need of extra help,” Kubwayo said. “I have also been asked to stay and help out for extra minutes or an hour on some occasions, something that was not common in the past.” The multiple opportunities to work additional hours seem to suggest that the number of student workers needed in the new dining system was originally underestimated. 

Kubwayo decided to give up her primary position at SuperBlanch this semester because it did not end up working with her schedule. She found that working there during the opening weeks was overwhelming. 

“I understand that this is a transition for everyone, staff and students alike, but I think that there needs to be more improvements made in regards to the environment that students and professional staff work in,” she said, “It was very stressful to work in the Dining Commons, especially during peak hours.”

As the campus adjusts to the massive change, Sarmiento and fellow Senator Luciany Capra ’21 said that the goals for their working group in Senate are to receive information about student jobs and SuperBlanch, as well as to communicate concerns regarding student jobs to the appropriate administrative workers.