For 35 years, Nebraska’s Lory Erving has been dedicated to engaging students and making them feel at home as they study at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Erving’s service was rewarded with the Support Staff Recognition award from the Upper Midwest Region — Association of College and University Housing Officers earlier this year. Spurred by the award, the University Communication and Marketing team reached out to Erving to discuss her work, how she landed in Nebraska, and her favorite thing about working on campus.
This is Lory Erving in her words... ⬇️
What do you do today?
I am currently the morning cashier at Cather Dining. But my role involves a great deal more than cashiering. I come in at 6 a.m. and set up a couple of stations, make the hot oatmeal, wrap some desserts and do some cleaning.
Currently, the salads menu and dessert menu are my responsibility for building and forecasting, plus providing signage for all the stations. I enjoy the challenge of making those menus full of variety, eye-appealing and as nutritious as possible.
I also keep the calendar current for room reservations, and incoming groups. My personality is one that must keep busy, and I do. These things I work on during breakfast when it is slow.
The reason that I have these extra duties is from my experience over the years. In my 35 years at UNL, I was in the dish room for a year, cooked for six years, was night closer and veg prep for three years, was team leader for the specialty line for five years, Husker Heroes team leader for 17 years, and — due to my five shoulder surgeries — was moved to cashier after my shoulder replacement in 2019.
When I was moved to cashier, I was very upset as I felt “put out to pasture.” But as I formed relationships with students and staff, I began to love my job. Now, serving the lunch crowd is my favorite time of day.
Laughing and joking with the students, answering questions and providing support for coworkers, students and staff — plus the challenge of balancing my sales and tickets at the end of my shift — are all things I enjoy.
She is one of the most amazing people you will ever meet! She made my first year transition amazing and the painting I did for her says it all! https://t.co/4WDHhL88Jl
— Aspen (@aspenshae25) April 11, 2023
What has changed over the years?
Over the years, food service has changed immensely. In 1987 we were making our own tartar sauce, Thousand Island and Dorothy Lynch and now, we’re serving eight kinds of bottled dressings and tartar sauce packets. Covid has made us much more aware of keeping our customers safer by keeping things sanitized and serving things more individually wrapped.
When I started we actually served the food to the students and all the extras were served in small bowls; it was not all you could eat. A student had three entrée choices and a few side choices with one dessert. I don’t think that would be too popular in this day and age.
Our managers wore white dresses/outfits with white hose while we wore scrub-like tops and dress pants. We even called our managers Mr./Mrs./Miss and their last names. It blows my mind when I think of how far we’ve come since then.
What are your goals on the job?
I was a 24-year-old farm kid with a music ed degree when I started at UNL in food service and was very naïve back then. So when our freshmen come in and seem a little lost, I remember how it feels to be in a new place with new people and have a new lifestyle. My mothering instinct then kicks in and I try to make those students feel as welcome and cared about as I possibly can.
It always starts with trying to learn all their names which is almost impossible, but even a warm, ‘good morning,’ or, ‘how are you,’ seems to bring a smile. It’s easy for one to get lost in the shuffle and start feeling like a number and that’s not how I want our students to feel. As a parent, I would be glad to know that my son/daughter is at a school where the staff cares about them.
As I have said before, with my Christian background, I am extremely blessed and want to pass it along by blessing others with friendship, kindness, understanding and support.
— Jessie Brophy (@jessie_brophy) April 11, 2023
What are some of your favorite memories?
There are too many fun memories to mention but here are a few.
The wrong soap was used one morning in the jet sink. The employee turned it on and went on break. As I was headed through the dish room I took a picture of the huge pile of suds that filled the pot and pan area.
One year, our complex did an April Fools on the students and served lunch menu for breakfast and breakfast for lunch. It was fun — but some students didn’t like the joke.
On a personal memory, a maintenance employee would always bring the empty trash carts through the basement of Neihardt when Husker Heroes was serving from there. He would always be singing ‘Gloria’ at the top of his lungs. Little did I know that he thought my name was Gloria and was singing to me. This fine gentleman later became my husband.
And the most recent memory I will share is the presentation of my Upper Midwest Region support staff award that I received in December. This moved me to tears as I feel so undeserving since I am just doing my job. It’s required of all of us to provide good customer service.