For many USC students, Russell House employees are a constant in their daily lives.
Beyond the line from order to checkout, students don’t learn much about them and their characters. Behind these brief interactions are the stories of these employees, who work tirelessly because of — and sometimes despite — their interactions with the students.
Steven Simmons, a cook at Southern Kitchen, spoke about the efforts he and his coworkers make to provide students with substantial meals that match their personal needs.
“We basically are making sure that all the students are getting their daily meals and daily amounts of nutritions,” Simmons said. “We try to meet all the needs of everyone. So, if you’re not a meat eater, we have our vegan dishes and vice versa."
Simmons said one of his favorite things on the job was getting recognized for his work.
“The things I really like at my job, I would say, is the attention and the compliments you get from knowing that you did a really good job on your food and people are coming back for more,” Simmons said.
In his day-to-day interactions with students, Simmons says the majority of his experiences are positive.
“I would come across — maybe, I would say rarely — but maybe a few people that are impatient here and there, but that’s the job. That comes with anywhere you go to,” Simmons said. “Fairly everybody’s pretty nice here.”
Gabriel Tirado, an employee at Twisted Taco, has a slightly different perspective than some of his fellow Russell House employees.
“I’m a student here on campus as well, so I get to interact with my fellow students of USC, and that’s always a good time,” Tirado said.
Tirado said in his daily experiences with students, some can be less outgoing or warm than others.
“Some people are very friendly. Some people are not rude, but they’re just very to the point,” Tirado said. “Sometimes, when you get a few of those people in a row, you look forward to the quirkier ones.”
Tirado said that while he does not view his work in Russell House as his long-term job, he still sees it as a formative experience, as it helps him interact with a wide array of people.
“It’s a good learning experience for me, socially, getting exposed to different things, different environments — it’s always good,” Tirado said.
Gloria Hall, a cashier at Gamecock General on the second floor of Russell House, has been an employee since 2006. Hall says the reason she’s been an employee for so long is because of her daily interactions with students.
“They keep my day going,” Hall said.
Hall said her interactions with the students are the reason she is passionate about her job and explains the impact she tries to have on them.
“Some of them don’t talk. But I get them to talk,” she said. “I try to brighten students’ days.”
Hall says she occasionally encounters students who are less polite or open, but she understands those behaviors sometimes come from a point of stress and tries to help.
“I know they go through a lot of stuff. They have exams and finals and stuff,” Hall said. “I give them words of encouragement; let them know they’re gonna be all right.”