This story is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how Netsu Tegene connects with students through HPU’s top-ranked dining experience.
It’s 10:30 a.m. and the morning rush inside the Slane Student Center is slowing down. Netsu Tegene tidies up her workspace. She wants everything to be just right when students arrive for lunch.
She greets everyone warmly as she swipes their HPU Passport cards, welcoming them into the Café, a popular dining location on campus.
The atmosphere is upbeat and welcoming. Live music plays throughout the dining room and the staff, dressed in purple, serve up a delicious, wholesome variety of food to their guests.
Tegene is one of the many caring faces students meet at HPU. She sees them daily as they enjoy meals with friends, fuel up for practice or a game, or grab a bite between classes. Her smile lets them know this is home and they’re family.
She started working in the Café six years ago. She ran a cafeteria in Ethiopia, her home country, and considered opening her own restaurant after moving to the United States. But HPU felt like home and she stayed.
Tegene gets to know the students, and the students know her too.
For Will Elliott, a sophomore from Overland Park, Kansas, she is one of the first people he sees every morning.
This caring approach to service, which comes naturally to Tegene and her co-workers, helps rank HPU Dining among the best in the country. It’s also an example of HPU’s values-based, holistic approach to education. In the classrooms, dining halls, residence halls and all across campus, HPU nurtures students’ academic, spiritual and personal growth — right down to the menu selections served in the Café.
Tegene likes to point out the additions of organic and local food, cage-free eggs and grass-fed beef. She says students are excited about these offerings. But for Tegene, her job is about more than the food and her daily tasks. It’s about love.
“I love my job because I love people, especially the students. I care for them like my children,” she says. “I’m a Christian, and so I believe in God and follow Jesus. God is love. That is why I love everybody.”
Her supervisors have taken note of her loving approach.
“Netsu’s role in the Café is invaluable and reaches far beyond just scanning cards and greeting students,” says Pete Mandala, Aramark general manager. “She is that constant face and smile that students can rely on. Many of them are from out of state. Having someone connect with them on a daily basis puts them at ease and makes them feel at home.”
Tegene made such an impact on Elliott during his freshman year that he wrote her a thank-you note that included a Bible verse, Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
“I told her how she needs to keep being a light in this world and continue to glorify God through her positive attitude and good works,” he says. “I’m so thankful I’ve gotten to know her and will get to see her the next three years.”
For Tegene, working in the Café is a chance to be present, provide encouragement and love the students she serves.
“We are family. Every one of them is special to me.”
View this story and more in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine: