Manuel Gomez Castaño, a student coordinator for Campus Dining, restocks the salad bar in the Butler/Wilson dining hall.
Photo: Frank Wojciechowski
Balancing studies and a plateful of dining-hall tasks

Manuel Gomez Castaño ’20 is a student coordinator for Campus Dining, managing 50 to 60 students who work in the Butler and Wilson College dining hall. We caught up with the politics concentrator on Monday of the last week of classes. 

Waking up I woke up around 8 a.m. and walked over to the Butler/Wilson dining hall. I listen to a sports-debate show, Undisputed, every morning as I’m getting ready and eating breakfast. 

ART 103 My first class, “Arts of the Americas,” was in the McCormick lecture hall. The class is focused on Native American art from North America, Central America, and South America, so the professor goes back and forth between regions to show different cultures and different artworks that they had during the time. The class fulfills the epistemology and cognition distribution requirement, which is hard to fulfill. 

ENV 200 My second lecture was in Peyton Hall. It’s called “The Environmental Nexus,” and it analyzes climate change through the nexus of four different environmental problems: biodiversity, water, food, and climate. 

Personal time After lunch, between 1 and 4, I had some personal time. I walked through the football stadium and some of the trails that are around that portion of campus, and then I met a friend of mine and we went to the graduate lounge of the politics department and did homework for a bit.

Studying politics I’m taking a class on civil war in Latin America. For my research paper, I’m focusing on Colombia and the role that cocaine production has in prolonging civil war. 

This is a personal interest because I was born in Colombia. The reason why I wanted to become a politics major has to do with my love for politics, and my desire to learn more about how to reach out to people through institutions and governance and make a difference in the pockets of society that need help most. 

Work I went back to the Butler/Wilson dining hall at 4:30. I got a plate of food to eat and sat with the other workers, talking and eating. I’m a co-coordinator for the dining hall, which is the highest position. We employ the other students, pay them, determine schedules and promotions, and we have to be in contact with the people who run the dining hall — all the administrative stuff. When we work in the dining hall for a shift, we work as managers, overseeing the entire shift for the duration of dinner. The coordinator is kind of always working, but I work official shifts Monday, Saturday, and Sunday. 

Dinner schedule There are two sections of a dinner shift: first dinner from 4:30 to 7:30, and second dinner from 7:30 to 9. The first portion, we’re in charge of the salad bar and the hot-foods bar, making sure that all the food is well stocked. We have to be in constant communication with the chefs. The second portion is a bit more hectic. We still manage the salad and hot food, but we’re also closing down every section, putting the food in the fridge, cleaning everything. Everybody’s just running around trying to get everything done. 

Managing time Working a full-time job and being a full-time student is not easy. I wouldn’t say I have to give anything up; I just think that it has more to do with good time management and trying to be as efficient as possible.

Edited and condensed by Anna Mazarakis ’16