The Sodexo staff are a diverse group of individuals who are grateful for the opportunity to work at Westmont College. Three dining commons (DC) staff members — Sawsen Azab, Theresa Taylor and Robb Mackay — agreed to share their backgrounds and experiences during their time at Westmont.
Sawsen Azab applied for her position — dining room cashier — after being encouraged to do so by her friend and coworker. In the 15 years that she has worked at Westmont Azab has enjoyed her experience, describing the community as having, “very nice people [and] students.”
Mackay, another staff member lives locally and works both in the DC and in Ritchie’s Place. He lives just seven minutes down the hill and has enjoyed being born and raised in Santa Barbara, saying: “I wouldn’t go anywhere else. It’s hard to find mountains and the ocean as close as they are.” Mackay described himself as “a beach boy, born and raised a surfer,” and appreciates the accessibility to beaches found in Santa Barbara.
In reference to what brought him to apply for the Westmont dining team, Mackay cited losing both his mother and father to cancer six years ago as a formative time of transition. He said, “I was a caretaker at the time, and they were my last two patients. [After they passed] I decided to transition to come here and help you guys.” At the time, Mackay had been laying concrete for the construction of the Global Leadership Center (GLC). After taking part of this construction job, Mackay was recommended by other Westmont staff members for a position in the Dining Commons.
Although working in the DC is a different kind of caretaking than Mackay was used to, he said, “I’m super happy about it. You guys are so appreciative and very worthy of all of us helping you get through your university years. It was a perfect transition … coming to a place where I can feel appreciated and fill the void a little bit.”
Theresa Taylor is also a Santa Barbara native, who works as a marketing coordinator with Sodexo. Taylor was born in Santa Barbara and grew up in Orcutt, which is about an hour north of the city of Santa Barbara, but still within the county. She recalls frequent trips to Santa Barabara to visit the beaches and spend vacation time with her family. The oldest of five siblings, Taylor graduated from California Lutheran University with a degree in marketing and later accepted the role she currently holds at Westmont in June 2019.
Taylor has served in a variety of roles as marketing coordinator: “Before [COVID-19], I’d do events for the Dining Commons [such as] promotions at Ritchie’s and the Dining Commons … I [also] did a ‘Surf and Turf’ event.” Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Taylor’s role “[looks] a little different from a marketing and events perspective.”
Recently, Taylor’s job position has shifted towards operations manager. Now, she “run[s] the operations for the Dining Commons, help[s] with catering as a manager, and help[s] with … Ritchie’s Place.”
In addition, Taylor has had the opportunity to work with various departments around campus, such as Housing and Disability Services, as well as nutritionists in the DC to accommodate students with a variety of dietary needs. Overall, Taylor explains, “every day is different, but I never know exactly how to describe it because I do everything from HR to helping my team where they need it.”
The Dining Commons staff brings a variety of life experiences to Westmont. Immensely eager to help students by providing nutritious meals and kind service, their work is a vital part of our wonderful campus and their stories are worth sharing.