This is the first installment of The Collegian's UR Employee Spotlight Series. The series will tell the stories of University of Richmond staff members who tirelessly help students and work behind the scenes to better campus life.
It’s 6 a.m.
Morning classes are still only distant dreams. The sun is barely starting to think about rising. Campus pathways are quiet, as students are squeezing in a few more hours of rest before their next busy and bustling day.
But for the Heilman Dining Center, the day has already begun.
Lights are on, the dishes are washed, stoves are heated, and Rachel Snyder is busy preparing the dining hall's popular omelet station for the day.
Snyder is known among students for her impeccable omelet-making skills. This month marks her five-year work anniversary with the University of Richmond's only campus dining hall.
“Her omelets are like 10 times better than anyone else’s,” senior Lauren Onestak said. Part of Snyder's first-rate flavor comes from her thoughtfulness in the kitchen. “Unlike everyone else who works at the omelet station, she puts in things at different times, because she knows what will get cooked quicker,” Onestak said.
Off the griddle, Snyder is considered by many students to be one of the most thoughtful dining hall employees around. She asks students about their days and remembers her regular customers.
“She knows my name, and she knows my omelet order,” Onestak said. “If she sees me coming, she’ll immediately get stuff started.”
From Snyder’s perspective, the omelets are only the beginning. She is constantly thinking about how she can improve the dining hall menu well beyond breakfast.
“I love making soups,” Snyder said, explaining how she takes pride in the recipes she’s been able to change and improve for the benefit of every dining hall patron.
Snyder's favorites include the thai red curry chicken soup and a new vegan butternut squash creation. She thoughtfully reworked the old butternut lentil recipe to include a mouthwatering mix of sriracha, ginger and curry. She loves dedicating time to perfecting each recipe.
“It makes me feel really proud that I can look at something and say ‘wait a minute, that’s not right,’” Snyder said.
Onestak said that beyond a dedication to food, she’s watched Rachel deal with broken air conditioning and lackluster support from other employees without letting it deter her from ensuring that each customer is happily fed.
“Very few people take a job and they look at it and say, ‘how can I make this better?’ But she really has,” Onestak said.
Onestak said that students don’t often take the time to appreciate the employees who go the extra mile in order to make student life on campus truly great.
For Snyder, it is simple. She comes to work every early morning with the goal of making the dining hall the best it can be.
“I love what I do,” Snyder said.
Contact features writer Zoe Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org.