Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm thirsty! Where is the Soda Center?

We caught up with Humberto Lopez, the Soda Center Catering Manager for the past 14 years, and he gave us a lot of insight as to what it’s like to work at the Soda Center. In terms of preparation, Humberto says that the staff usually gets to an event anywhere from an hour before an event, to half a day before an event and they usually get done about an hour after the last guest leaves. He has about 30 staff, with 3 full time, and about 27 student workers. They spend approximately 12-16 hours a week working in the Soda center, and have fairly flexible schedules. For each event, Humberto tries to schedule approximately 1 worker for every 12-15 guests at the table setting, and 1 worker for 20 guests at a buffet style event. They average about 10-12 events a day, depending on the complexity of the events.

The Soda center workers are responsible for many of the successes that take place during an event.
They have to check the arrangement and number of tables in the conference rooms to avoid last minute reorganization and are responsible for reorganizing the kitchen, cleaning dishes, and prepping food for the events. The staff also has many different outfits depending on the event. They all come in with their soda center polo and black shoes, which are provided for them by the school. And depending on the events, they can wear the same polo for casual events, switch to a bow tie and collared shirt, and they even have a new black shirt, tie, and apron outfit for special affairs.

The catering staff generates the “banquet event orders”, and Humberto and his staff look over them every Monday to begin the week.
When asked if Humberto’s staff love or fear him, he said, “ to be honest, they are scared of me sometimes. They are sometimes afraid to tell me when they can’t work, but I always tell them that school is first.” This is why Humberto puts up a separate schedule in the kitchen. If students have a final, or class, or even a birthday, he allows them to cross their names off the list to work that day and over the past 14 years, he has only let two people go. When we interviewed the Soda Center student workers, there were mixed responses. Some said they loved the job and enjoyed the perks of spending time with coworkers and eating great food. One student worker claimed that there is sometimes a fear of getting yelled at during a stressful event, and management is sometimes moody, but overall the job is great experience for the real world and sometimes really fun.

Humberto orders a lot of their food from a company called Gourmet Express.
He says, about 1/3 of the food is bought pre-cooked while 2/3 is prepared in the kitchen. For very large events, approximately 400 to 500 people, they buy the products directly from an outside caterer, but if the event is less than 100 people, they prepare everything in the kitchen. With the dessert items, they make about ½ and order the other ½ from Gourmet Express. The students are not responsible to cook. They usually prepare salads and plate desserts, but the kitchen is generally supposed to come and help them when needed.

The variety of the food is also something the Soda Center Catering Staff pride themselves on.
For the regular group meetings, such as the Moraga Movers and Rotary, they have a 13-week meal cycle, so they never feel the meals are repetitive. Humberto and other Soda Center staff say that people claim their food is “great”. Although Humberto swears it is the same food they serve in Oliver Hall, randomly surveyed students say the food is better, and it is because it comes with quality service and a nice presentation.

Does the catering staff give special treatment to high paying customers? Absolutely not.
There are no prices listed on the menu that goes out to the staff, so everyone is treated with the same quality and respect. Although when Humberto knows that the president, large donors, and the executives are there for an event, he pays close attention to the customer relations of his staff. Attending catered events in the soda center may be free for students, but events generally are priced at $11.00-$11.50 per plate. Some programs, such as Moraga Movers and Rotary, do not have to pay for event space, but they donate to the school and provide scholarship funds for students.

Overall, the Soda Center has its ups and downs. When asked what is the worst and best part about your job, this is how Humberto responded: “The worst is when the staff does not take the job as seriously as I do. I have been in food service a long time and I hate to see that sometimes they just don’t show up. Also, sometimes the dishwashers and other appliances break down and it takes the school a long time to respond. As a result, my employees are left doing a lot of that by hand. The best part about the job is seeing people enjoy themselves and providing employment for and with students. I feel proud to teach them to be responsible and to learn to interact in a work environment. Every day after events have all been completed, we sit at the table with all of the workers and talk. Some student claim that they have had more dinners with the soda center staff than with their own family at the dinner table, and they have since become like a family with us”.

Check out some pictures of the Soda Center: Ice T and Soda

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SMC Graffiti

One of the things that I was not expecting to find on the Saint Mary's campus was graffiti, especially not good graffiti. On one of my walks to the swamp a friend of mine suggested we go over the damn to see the graffiti wall. I was very interested in going, so I agreed and, to my surprise, I was very impressed with most of the work.

I was very excited to see this on the Saint Mary's Campus, but right away I started asking myself a lot of questions. From where did this graffiti come? Who are the artists responsible? Does Saint Mary's College know about this? If so, how do they feel about it?

Another thing about this area is that it was very trashed and there were spray paint bottles and litter all over. Although the art and the setting for the graffiti is really cool, it is also having a negative impact on the wildlife on Saint Mary's.

Nevertheless, it is a cool spot to check out on-campus. I know there is going to be different opinions about whether this place should be kept as is or should be cleaned up, but this is one of Saint Mary's most interesting hidden gems.

Check out some of the pictures of the artwork and decide for yourself!

For More pictures of this hidden gem, click here: SMC Beauties

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Update on Hidden Gems

There is no doubt that the picturesque buildings and gardens of Saint Mary’s central campus are what often stand out most to students and visitors alike, but along with its great architecture and gardens there are other gems on campus that are noteworthy. Saint Mary’s has some of the most beautiful trails that lead to some breath taking views and get away spots, and here are a few worth checking out.

The cross is one of these places that is a great escape. Even while taking pictures for the project I was really taken back by how pretty the campus looked, and it didn't hurt that is was a beautiful day.

Another place similar to the cross that is just as big of a landmark at Saint Mary's is the SMC. The hike up there is very pleasant especially during the spring time when the hills are green. Students often paint the SMC commemorate different holidays and in fact the day I was up taking pictures at The Cross students were painting it.

The Swamp, a.k.a. The Shire, is by far my favorite place on campus to visit. Its a bit hard to get to, but it is very interesting. What I love and I know some people might hate is the Graffiti on the walls of the damn and also on the random walls scattered throughout. Its pretty cool that in the middle of all of this nature and a completely green surrounding there is a lot of urban art.

Also another thing we considered a cool place to see on the Saint Mary's campus was the Mary located behind the redwood grove. The whole area in which the Mary is located is very cool because the canopy of the redwoods completely keeps direct sunlight from hitting the trail. After walking about 100 yards one comes up on a sign that says "Our Lady of The Oaks" and beyond that is the stone statue of the Mary and is a great getaway spot as well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

GaelPrint Interview

Continuing with our research into GaelPrint and it's effect on the College, we interviewed Quyen Trinh with CaTS.

She provided a fresh and more realistic perspective of the difference that GaelPrint brought. She commented on the financial challenges that came that her office faced with being burdened in picking up the tab for paper and toner costs, both of which had increased from the previous year. Also, some of her comments were aimed at the students who waste supplies on useless prints or throw them away immediately.

This shoot happened rather quickly as I emailed Quyen Tuesday morning and interviewed her less than six hours later. Thankfully I had my questions together beforehand. However she wasn't completely ok with being on camera at first. She wanted to know what the video was going to be about and how it would be distributed. My responsibility became to reassure her that I was going to faithfully portray her perspective and opinion. I told her that I wouldn't misconstrue her words and create a meaning different from what she was giving in the interview.

Technically, we ran into a few problems. Firstly, shooting in her office wouldn't work because there was a bunch of background noise including voices speaking, phones ringing, and music playing. We decided to change locations. The second set-up was to take place in the corner of the computer lab, but because of sound and people in the background, that didn't work out either. We settled on the group meeting room in the front of the library, a non-ideal backdrop, but it was quiet, private, and worked for our purpose.

Again, Quyen gave some surprising and candid answers that reveal a less politically-correct reaction to GaelPrint and student use. Here is a short clip from the interview where Quyen talks a little about the budget issues that follow GaelPrint's implementation:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's Baking in the SODA Center?

When most people hear the words "soda center", they probably think of a hub for sugary soft-drinks, but at Saint Mary's we think differently. The Soda Activity Center at Saint Mary's is a campus facility used to host educational, religious, cultural, social and political events for both internal and external audiences. The Soda Center is a place where many new ideas are generated and great speakers come to share their perspective on important issues. But as we all know, the easiest way to pull in an audience at a college campus is to provide FOOD. This is where Sodexo makes its name.

Sodexo is the exclusive on-site contractor for food service at Saint Mary’s College. They have been serving the campus for over thirty-five years, and are able to offer both experience and fresh ideas to ensure that an event goes perfectly.

While most of us show up just in time for an event and leave right when it ends (sometimes before), the Sodexo staff is there to prep for an event, and stays long after the event is finished. Team Ice-T is digging deeper into what it takes to be a part of the Sodexo Catering staff, the amount of prep and closing time they spend for an event, and what goes on behind the scenes while an event is in progress.

Thus far, we have talked to Humberto Lopez, the Catering Manager at Saint Mary's, who is responsible for all Catering events held on Campus, especially in the Soda Center. He has agreed to let us capture some video footage at a few events this semester, and to take a look in the kitchen to see the preparation process. You can check out our "Ice-T in the Soda Center" page to see some interesting pictures taken at the Soda Center and in the Sodexo kitchen. This will be updated as more photos are documented.

Although we have done well communicating and asking permission of the man in charge, it is difficult to decide which events we want to film. Every event is different at the Soda Center, and the Sodexo staff's responsibility changes based on the number of people attending, the complexity of the food requests, and the type of audience involved.

Documenting the responsibilities of the Sodexo staff is still in progress, and the filming has not yet begun, so stay tuned for any updates on our struggles and successes!

Again, here are some pictures from the Soda Center!

Friday, April 16, 2010

SMC and Food Services

Check out our new post under "INTERESTING LINKS" titled, "SMC and Food Services". There is a lot of great information about catering and food services, SMC's mission in sustainability and their involvement in locally grown food products. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Interview with Ed Biglin

To get the best story in journalism, go to the people with the most information. That's exactly what Team Ice-T did for our video project on GaelPrint.

On Tuesday afternoon I interviewed Saint Mary's College's Chief Technology Officer, Ed Biglin about the GaelPrint system. We chatted in his office about how the program came about, how much it costs, and the future of GaelPrint.

I conducted the interview and operated the technology and it was a bit of a challenge to perform both tasks as best I could. I had a hard time keeping Ed in frame, looking at the camera screen, listening to his answers, thinking ahead to my next question, and maintaining eye contact and making a connection with my interview subject.

What helped the process was preperation. I tested using the camera so I was comfortable with its controls. I had checked the audio levels before we began shooting so I wouldn't need to adjust on the fly. I created a long list of possible questions for Ed so I wouldn't have to think much about them during the interview.

The question writing process was helped by thinking about what I envisioned Ed saying in the finished video. In my mind's eye I saw him sitting at desk or in front of a row of computers talking authoritatively about what GaelPrint is, how it came about, and what its benefits are. This would be contrasted with more hands-on experience coming from students who use GaelPrint and, perhaps, a CaTS staff member. Knowing what I hoped would be in the final product helped me create and phrase questions.

It's a fine line to walk between being a fair, balanced documentarian and an interesting storyteller. Hopefully we did a good job and remained ethical.

Here's an excerpt from the interview. Ed explains the general workings of GaelPrint: