But Andrea Cogdell, a dining hall worker in Silliman, said she still misses talking to students while they eat in the dining hall. She also misses meeting famous people when they visit Yale — something she hasn’t been able to do recently due to the pandemic.
“I miss a lot of the things we used to have for the kids — the reunions, the senior dinners — stuff like that,” said Cogdell. “We never knew 2019 was going to be our last year to have fun with the students and my employees.”
Cogdell grew up in New Haven and has worked for Yale for about 20 years, including 10 years as a non-contracted part-time employee. She told the News that off-shift, she loves to dance, sing and play the drums. She began to learn how to play the drums when she was 12 years old and, in the 90s, served as the drummer for the Black Church at Yale for four years.
Dorothy Fullins. Photo by Cassidy Arrington.
Dorothy Fullins, a dining hall worker in Silliman College, started working for Yale Catering five years ago. Last year, after giving birth to a daughter, Fullins returned from maternity leave and secured a job in the dining hall. She has slowly grown accustomed to the new environment, but said that she is still working on navigating Yale’s expectations.
“You do have to code switch,” said Fullins. “[There’s] the Black expression and Yale expectation[s] and you have to learn how to bring it to a happy medium and I’m still working on that.”
In the future, Fullins hopes to take the culinary and networking experience she has acquired during her time at Yale to dedicate more time to her own dessert catering business — Want Some Sweets — a business idea born out of conversations with family.
Until then, she thinks working at Yale is the most fitting job for her.
“I bring the laughs; I bring in jokes; I don’t want to come to work and be just like ‘I’m at work and I have to be quiet,’” said Fullins . “If no-one else does, your dining hall workers — the people that feed you everyday — they care.”
Sh-Ronda Jones-Cooper. Photograph by Cassidy Arrington.
Sh-Ronda Jones-Cooper has been working for Yale for 15 years as a staff employee and an additional three years as a part-timer. She said she has enjoyed meeting students from all over the world.
“If the students [are] not here, my day is very boring, so I love when they come in,” said Jones-Cooper. “I speak to them when they come in, I ask them questions, I ask how their day is going. I’m their cheerleader.”
During the daytime, Jones-Cooper works as a supervisor at the Yale New Haven Hospital, and in the evenings, she works at the Silliman dining hall. She has worked at the YNHH since 1999 and said she hopes to keep her part-time gig at the dining hall forever.
While Jones-Cooper enjoys engaging with students, she hopes that Yale Dining faculty will improve their efforts to represent the Black workers and students who frequent their facilities. Jones was disappointed to see that there were no decorations in the dining hall for Black History Month as there typically are for other holidays.
“New Haven has a lot of Black Americans and I would like to come to work and see that my job is representing me,” Jones-Cooper said.
Outside of her life at Yale, Jones-Cooper enjoys spending time with her husband, children and grandchildren. She loves to decorate for family and friends whenever they ask her, and always has a Bible verse with her to share and brighten someone’s day. In reflecting on the impact of community youth outreach in her own life, Jones-Cooper hopes that one day she will be able to support a community outreach program for New Haven youth, where more students can get the opportunity to cultivate their love for arts and education as many Yalies do every day.
More than half of the Yale Hospitality employees identify as Black or African American.