Azeb’s generosity makes UMass Boston more like home


Azeb, dining hall staff member of the Residence Halls. Photo by Valentina Valderrama-Perez / Mass Media Staff.

Valentina Valderrama Pérez, Sports Writer

The Dining Commons, the eating hub of the Residence Halls, is made up of a community of employees that provides students with food. Azeb works at “Simple Servings,” a special station that provides allergy free options. The menu offers dishes free of “peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat, soy, milk products, eggs, sesame and gluten-containing ingredients” (1).

Usually, Simple Servings holds three to four different dishes beneath the glass screen. The glass screen is meant to restrain the students from reaching for the food and unintentionally mixing the serving utensils.

Azeb helps by carefully serving portions to students and decreasing cross contamination. Since the allergen-free foods require careful preparation to ensure safe eating conditions, the dishes coming from Simple Servings usually feature specially cooked kitchen staples and deliciously seasoned proteins.

Opposed to the general options found in the dining hall like salads, burgers, pizza, meats and rice, Simple Servings offers seasoned salmon, lime-cilantro rice and toasted corn.

Azeb makes the unique Simple Servings even more special with her generosity and kindness.

She asks calmly, “What would you like?” With caring eyes and a gentle smile, she stands expectant on the other side of the counter. Usually, she wears her hair neatly braided beneath a thin kitchen net, taking her time and giving each student her undivided attention.

After the student picks their desired foods, she serves generous portions from the trays before her. Then, she asks if they would like something else or a little more. The hungry and tired students usually say yes.

Azeb gladly places the portions on the plates and hands the food to students with a smile.

However, bringing grace to her job is not new for Azeb. “I have been with Sodexo for 15 years, about one here at UMass Boston,” she explained.

UMass Boston opened the Residence Halls in 2018. The buildings were groundbreaking for the University. Previously, UMass Boston didn’t have the opportunity to give students a space to live at the institution. The new rooms facilitated student involvement and proximity to their academics.

The dining hall was a key piece of their establishment, as it gives residents the opportunity to find consistent and clean meals. The Dining staff is the team that makes it happen every day.

Azeb’s workday begins somewhat before the dining hall opens for lunch at 11 a.m. She prepares to enter her station and sets each food carefully with its respective serving utensil.

“I help Alex when there aren’t any students at my station,” she noted.

Alex works at the popular Quesadilla station beside Azeb. They hold a nice friendship, looking out for each other, as students come intermittently through the afternoon. Their long shift ends after the kitchen closes for dinner, between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Thinking about her coworkers, Azeb smiles. “Working here is very nice. The kitchen has people from all over the world. Anita, Sagradothey are always very nice!”

Students who prefer the Simple Servings station due to their carefully cooked and seasoned options grow familiar with Azeb. Similarly, some students who want to prevent an allergic reaction find stability in the work Azeb does to help them have safe foods to eat. Her warmth and generosity make Simple Servings like a corner of home. Something every college student, especially those living away from home for the first time, finds comfort in.

On Friday, April 28 UMass Boston celebrated the naming ceremony of the Residence Halls in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Keith Motley and his wife, Angela. The Motleys were honored to give their name to the Residence Halls, as Dr. Motley approved the project. He held the strong belief that housing would drive student success (2).

During the past few years, UMass Boston’s culture has evolved to embody the dorming experience. Like Azeb, the community of employees in the dining hall form the backbone that enables students to find food during lunch, dinner and even brunch during the weekends. Helping students embody Dr Motley’s vision, continuing to succeed and find a home in UMass Boston.