Finding purpose and community on campus

Jillian Reichel is the winner of the 2015 NACAS College Services Student Feature Article Contest, sponsored by Sodexo. Students were asked to submit articles on the topic of “How Auxiliary Services Has Influenced My College Experience.” Here is Jillian’s winning essay.

When I went away to college at University at Albany (UAlbany), there was one piece of advice that my mom gave me: “Get involved.” Even before the semester started, and well into my freshman year, she would encourage me on a daily basis to join a club or try something new. As an independent 18-year-old, this advice went in one ear and out the other. I was about to start a new and exciting four-year journey, and my plans included making friends, choosing a major, and experiencing college life.

However, I soon realized that college life wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Although I had great friends and I enjoyed my classes, I began to feel like something was missing. At a university with almost 13,000 undergraduate students, it’s easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond. I eventually realized that if I wanted to make the most of my college experience, I was going to have to get out of my comfort zone. During the fall of my sophomore year, one of my roommates invited me to attend a “food club” meeting with her. I reluctantly agreed—partially because I love food, but mostly so I could tell my mom that I joined a club. Little did I know that by attending this meeting, I would be starting a multi-year, multifaceted journey with University Auxiliary Services at Albany, Inc. (UAS).

The “food club” turned out to be the Albany Student Dining Advisory Committee (ASDAC). ASDAC is a student group that was created by UAS to act as a liaison between the student body and dining services on campus. ASDAC enables students to have a voice and provide feedback, concerns, suggestions, and opinions regarding dining services to UAS and the food service vendor. When I attended my first ASDAC meeting in fall 2012, the other members and the UAS staff advisor were extremely welcoming to me as a new member. Once I realized I could openly share my opinions and have a voice about dining services, I knew that ASDAC was the right student group for me.

After participating in ASDAC for two semesters, I applied to be a co-chair for the upcoming year, and I was accepted to the position. As a current co-chair, I lead ASDAC meetings, plan discussion topics, schedule guest speakers, and help to facilitate conversation/feedback from other ASDAC members.

In 2014 I helped implement a restructure of ASDAC, which included creating the ASDAC Executive Leadership Group. This group is comprised of approximately 20 students who are responsible for mystery shopping dining venues, providing dining updates to other students on campus, and discussing short-term/long-term ideas for dining services at UAlbany. Creating the ASDAC Executive Leadership Group was a fantastic experience because I was able to share my ideas and vision for this group. UAS provided support, encouragement, and the necessary resources that helped the ASDAC Executive Leadership Group come to fruition. Being a co-chair for ASDAC has enabled me to come out of my shell, and to develop leadership, teamwork, and organizational skills that I know will benefit me for the rest of my life.

In addition to being an ASDAC co-chair, I am also a student assistant for UAS. In this role, I provide support to the operations department by helping with equipment inventory, monitoring customer counts, tracking laundry equipment repairs, and developing procedures. As a business administration major, it’s exciting to put my classroom work into practice every day in my working role at UAS. I am fortunate to work with an absolutely incredible team of employees who are all passionate about the part that they play in maintaining and improving quality of life services for students on campus. While working for UAS, I have learned how to effectively manage my time, and to juggle several different projects at once. I have learned to prioritize tasks in order to efficiently meet deadlines.

My favorite part about my position with UAS is the people that I work with. I have never met a more caring and supportive group of individuals. Every employee at UAS, regardless of their position or title, is always willing to go above and beyond to help each other out, answer questions, and provide support. My colleagues have mentored me both inside and outside of work, and I know that they truly care about me as an employee, as a student, and as a person. I truly look forward to going to work on a daily basis, and being able to work in such a positive and comfortable environment that is motivating and rewarding.

In fall 2014, I was also invited to sit on the UAS board of directors. I was so excited when I received this opportunity, as I was interested in becoming further involved with UAS and having an even broader voice for my fellow students. The board is comprised of a diverse group of members from the UAlbany campus community, including other students, administrators, faculty, and graduate students. Sitting on the board has empowered me to learn valuable decision-making skills and has significantly increased my confidence in voicing my opinions and taking a stand for causes that I feel passionate about.

One of my duties as a board member is serving on the program funds committee, which administers UAS Program Funds (approximately $250,000 a year) for a wide variety campus programs and events. We review proposals and make decisions on which groups and events should receive funding, and we help to support many various leadership, fundraising, and team-building events that benefit the entire university community. As a member of the program funds committee, I enjoy being able to ensure that funding is provided for activities that continue to help create cohesion and encourage involvement at UAlbany.

I also serve on the services committee, which oversees all services contracts for UAS including dining, vending, laundry, and the bookstore. We develop annual meal plans for board approval, which is one of my favorite parts of this committee. As a student, I am encouraged to provide my feedback based on past and present meal plans, as well as work with ASDAC to gauge student opinions, ideas, and satisfaction with meal plans.

Meal plans are a critical component of any campus, and it is very gratifying knowing that I am able to ensure students are provided with a variety of meal plan options that meet their dining needs. Additionally, UAlbany is currently undergoing an extensive campus renovation project that will significantly expand campus dining venues and facilities. The services committee is vocal in providing suggestions for potential services that will be offered once the expansion is complete. Although I will no longer be a student on campus when the renovations are complete, I know our work now will be beneficial to the UAlbany community for many years to come.

To me, it is impossible to separate my experience with auxiliary services from my college experience—they are one in the same. My involvement with university auxiliary services at Albany throughout the past three years has been absolutely critical in shaping me into the young woman that I am today. I am a better person, a better student, a better coworker, and a better leader because of my involvement with UAS. Most importantly, I now know what it feels like to have a sense of belonging and to be a part of something. I understand why my mom always encouraged me to get involved on campus. My experience with UAS has made me feel like I have a purpose, and I know that because of all my roles with UAS, I have positively contributed to UAlbany throughout my college career. UAS has helped me build a personal and professional foundation that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Jillian Reichel
Jillian Reichel was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. She is a University at Albany student majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Information Technology Management. Her involvement with University Auxiliary Services has led her to discover a passion for campus and community involvement and leadership.

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