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Monday, Dec 11, 2023

Former Bread Loaf staff reflect on time away from main campus

Due to over-enrollment during fall 2021, Bread Loaf became an alternate housing option for Middlebury students as a solution for the lack of space on the main campus. As a result, new staff positions in dining, facilities and transportation were added to accomodate a new housing area 30 minutes away. For this issue, The Campus spoke with some of the staff members who made Bread Loaf possible this year.  

Dining operations at Bread Loaf were led by Jennifer Stratman, who is head chef at The Grille and oversees the food truck — which was part of the meal plan last academic year — and concessions. When the administration asked her to take on the position, she was very willing to step into the role. 

“It made sense because my position is primarily concessions and the food truck. All my employees are students, so no one would have more work to do on main campus without me there,” Stratman said. 

With the help of one other employee, new hire Debbie Waters, Stratman worked tirelessly throughout her time at Bread Loaf to make it as comfortable as possible for students. She listened to student requests for certain foodstuffs and ensured her dining hall was stocked with them, baked muffins from scratch with flavors only available at Bread Loaf and provided a hot homemade meal six nights a week. 

Overall, Stratman enjoyed her time at Bread Loaf. In particular, the opportunity to develop more intimate personal connections with students was a highlight.

“At The Grille, there are hundreds of students coming in at once, and the priority is getting them their food as quickly as possible. At Bread Loaf, I could remember people’s personal preferences, like who prefers gouda cheese and details like that,” she said.

 Stratman also appreciated having more free range to cook what she wanted, compared to the food truck, where she would need to submit a menu for review. “I had more creative freedom at Bread Loaf because I didn’t need to worry about profits and budgeting — I could just focus on making the students as happy as possible.”

 Still, there are a number of positives for Stratman in returning to her former position on campus now that Bread Loaf is no longer student housing. Aside from the shorter commute, she is looking forward to opening the food truck in the spring as well as offering concessions at outdoor athletic events for the first time.

 Debbie Waters also continues to work part-time on campus in Ross Dining Hall, where she signs up to work at times that fit her own schedule as a member of the on-call list, according to Executive Director of Food Service Operations Dan Detora. 

Another new job role created as a result of Bread Loaf housing was a shuttle driver position to ensure transportation to and from Bread Loaf was available to students throughout the day. According to Matt Curran, director of business services, a large part of the work was outsourced to the charter bus service Premier Coach, which the college also uses to transport athletics teams. Using Premier was especially helpful at popular times like Thursday evenings and weekends because they had larger vans than the 15-person shuttle the college used, according to part-time driver Keith Ellery, associate director for Public Safety. 

However, a significant portion of the driving was done by Middlebury employees. Nate Orvis, who worked in custodial services and has now returned to that position, drove the shuttle from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., five days a week.  

Driving the shuttle became Orvis’ full-time role, but the position was also offered as an opportunity for employees to work overtime. Public Safety officers Rick Iffland and Mark Johns drove the shuttle on some weeknights for time-and-a-half pay. Ellery also drove the shuttle on some mornings when Orvis was not available.

Ellery shared that he and his fellow Public Safety officers valued the opportunity to meet students, especially at times like the 6 a.m. pickup when only a couple students would take the shuttle.

“It was really positive to be able to interact with students in a capacity not related to Public Safety services,” he said.

 Curran expressed immense appreciation for the Middlebury employees who stepped up to the task.

“We had a hard time finding people to drive — everyone was busy, especially with staffing shortages. When the shuttle service ended the first week of February, we said a big thank you to our drivers,” he said.

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Ideal Dowling

Ideal Dowling '22 is an Editor at Large.

She previously served as a copy editor and Local section editor.

Dowling is majoring in Political Science and minoring in French and  History. During the summer of 2021, she worked as a consultant for the  startup accelerator Aegis Ventures and as a research assistant for  Professor Stanley Sloan as he worked on his book "De-Trumping U.S.  Foreign Policy: Can Biden Bring America Back?" In addition to her work  at The Campus, Dowling is captain of Middlebury's women's squash team  and an employee at the Middlebury College Museum of Art.