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Sherman worker brightens students days

By Zach Cihlar

Section: Features

December 2, 2016

Beloved Sherman worker Yen Yu is a greeter for Brandeis Dining Services. From breakfast through lunch on weekdays, she can found at the front desk in Sherman Dining Hall swiping students in and welcoming them to the Sodexo experience. Yen began working for Brandeis Dining Services nearly 24 years ago.

Originally from Taiwan, Yen and her husband immigrated to America with no knowledge of the English language. Her husband, Charlie, was asked to help his brother with a restaurant he owned in America, and her husband worked for some time in the restaurant. He asked Yen and their kids to move there with him. Now both she and Charlie work in Brandeis Dining Services.

When not working, Yen said she enjoys numerous hobbies. A few activities she mentioned include fishing, sewing, cooking and crafting. One specific hobby she mentioned in greater detail is flower arranging. Frequently she will bring many of her arrangements to the dining hall to decorate the desk at the entrance.

On special occasions, Yen puts her crafting skills to work by making origami and displaying her intricate creations at the welcome desk. At the end of her workday, she likes to give her craftwork out to students as gifts. “I make it to share with everyone,” she said of her origami creations. “When they’re happy, I’m happy.”

On students’ birthdays, Yen used to give origami hearts made out of crisp, new one dollar bills she picked up from the bank specifically for the occasion. Since then, her bank no longer grants requests for new one dollar bills, so she makes the origami hearts out of patterned paper.

Yen’s interest in origami began at Brandeis when a student gifted her with an origami lotus flower. Yen recalled hearing that the paper lotus required one hour of the student’s time to make, and she was deeply touched by the student’s generosity. “I was so touched by her gift, I asked her how to do it so that I could get to share that with other students,” she said of learning the Japanese art form.

The student who gave her the lotus flower taught her how to make different creations “one-by-one, and eventually I learned.” Since then, Yen has learned how to manufacture many different formations out of paper.

Gianna Petrillo ’19 praised Yen’s origami for their ornateness. “They are so intricate and she selects one for each student,” Petrillo said of the multiple crafts she has received from the Dining Services worker. “She is so selfless and consistently gives me decorations from her desk because I love how beautiful they are,” Petrillo added.

Yen’s favorite part about working at Brandeis, she noted, is seeing the students every day. “I love to interact with students; I love to welcome them every day into the dining hall.”

Yen added that she cares deeply for the students she sees everyday, and makes sure that everyone has smiling faces as they walk into the dining hall. She is very interactive with the students, and she loves having conversations with them. “Whenever a student comes in, and they smile to me, I feel it. It’s a very happy moment for me,” she said.

“I love them. I look after all of them as if they were my kids. I wish everyone to be happy and healthy,” Yen added.

Students have responded well to Yen’s cheerfulness and rapport. This year, Sodexo, Inc. recognized Yen’s amiability and affinity with the students, and awarded her the 2016 Sodexo Experience Regional Winner for her positive influence on students’ experience with Sodexo.

In April, Brandeis posted a #HumansofBrandeis feature on Yen. Students and parents both filled the Facebook post with comments expressing gratitude and affection for Yen and the warmth she brings to the position.

One commenter, Heather Spector ’17 wrote, “Whenever I give campus tours, I’m always really excited when she’s at the Sherman desk, so the prospective students can see one of the best examples of Brandeis kindness.”

Many students commend her generosity and geniality. “I like her because she is very giving and she doesn’t expect anything back from anyone, and I think that’s a really good quality that’s not very common anymore,” said Olivia Hoy ’20.

Remi Miller ’19 agreed with Hoy’s sentiment, noting Yen’s genuine greetings. “She genuinely wants to know about your day and how you are. Her smile is warm and welcoming and enhances my overall Brandeis experience,” said Miller.

Others comment on her accepting spirit and hospitable welcoming she grants to students every day. Lauren Chin ’19 recalled how every time she sees Yen, Chin practices her Mandarin with Yen, who receives Chin patiently and remains helpful throughout the conversation. “She’s very inclusive and always smiling,” Chin said of Yen.

Petrillo also commented on Yen’s accepting spirit by accentuating her always cordial greetings. “I love greeting Yen every morning at breakfast because she has so much energy and it brightens my day,” she said.

Bryan McNamara ’19 added that Yen’s presence adds to the experience of Sherman dining hall and makes dining at Sherman a more enjoyable experience for him. “Yen’s smile lights up my day. Seeing her is the highlight of my visits to Sherman,” McNamara said.

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