Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Pat Bando and BC Dining Services Director Beth Emery (Photos by Caitlin Cunningham)

After having dealt with numerous pandemic-related challenges that affected colleges and universities nationwide, Boston College Dining Services has been buoyed this academic year by recognition from its peers, accolades from students, and strengthened engagement with the University community.

Over the past several months, BCDS has won the National Association of College and University Food Services Gold Award for sustainability, Food Management magazine’s Best Sandwich Award for the katsu sando, and was chosen as the FoodService Director Magazine Foodservice Operation of the Month for the innovative ordering system used in the Tully Café at 245 Beacon Street.

Honors such as these are a source of pride as well as a validation of BCDS’s efforts to ensure satisfaction on the part of its customers but also its staff, according to administrators—a task all the more critical given the pandemic’s impact on dining operations, said Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Pat Bando.

“I’d ask myself every day, ‘How can we increase the flexibility of our staff?’ and ‘How can we keep students and employees happy—or make them happier?’” she said.

Many of the answers to such questions come from direct feedback, which the department willingly accepts in all forms. BCDS Director Beth Emery noted that their team was awarded the Eagle Partnership Award by the Undergraduate Government of BC, honoring a department that listens and actively responds to students’ assessments.

“We pride ourselves on that,” Emery said. “We’re looking for student input. We’re not afraid of constructive feedback.”

Beth Emery and Pat Bando

BCDS serves upwards of 20,000-23,000 meals a day during the academic year, said Emery, but “when it comes to food it’s really personal: You really want to try and take care of that one student, employee, or community member.” Student encounters with Dining Services staff can be as important as those with faculty members, she added: “You might be having a tough day, but that person in the dining hall could bring a smile to your face.”

One important avenue for BCDS to gain insights into its successes and shortcomings is working with student-run or student-oriented groups through Dining Advisory Board meetings. Representatives from more than 30 organizations are invited to these gatherings, including the Center for Student Wellness, Undergraduate Government of BC, Muslim Student Association, BC Hillel, the Sustainability Action Committee, and other cultural and sustainability groups.

Employment opportunities are yet another key means of contact with BCDS. As of mid-March, BCDS employed more than 800 students, including some 20 interns who manage the department’s social media accounts or handle promotions for the Green2Go campaigns.

The easing of pandemic-related restrictions also enabled BCDS to resume organizing special events, among them monthly culinary showcases, “Pi Day” cooking classes, and burger battles.

 “Dining Services really cares about the students, and it was a pleasure being able to open our dining units to full capacity,” said Bando.

As 2022-2023 draws to a close, Bando and Emery are already planning for next year. Emery, for example, is exploring more ways to integrate students’ favorite foods into the current BCDS menus.

“The team will be summarizing the impact—financial, physical, even emotional—of all the programs that we’ve done,” said Bando, “and we will use that as a guide to which ones we will grow and create anew.”

Meghan Keefe '24 | University Communications | May 2023