Uncommon Interview: Bernadine Warren, recipient of the Aramark Ring of Stars award

“I enjoy everything [about working at the University]. I enjoy the people, everything. It’s just overall a great, wonderful dining experience.”

By Kaitlyn Akin

Ms. Bernadine Warren has worked at Cathey Dining Commons since its opening in 2013, prior to which she worked at Pierce Dining Commons. She is often found swiping students into Cathey with a smile and her signature “Happy ___day!” In October, she received the Aramark Ring of Stars award in Phoenix, Arizona for her positivity and enthusiasm.

Chicago Maroon (CM): How did it feel when you won the Aramark Ring of Stars award?

Bernadine Warren (BW): Absolutely amazing, speechless, just completely humbled. And I’m like, ‘Are you sure that’s me?’ Just really amazing and so grateful, totally surprised, I had no idea.

CM: How did you find out that you won the award?

BW: I was at home and I got a phone call and my boss was telling me to call, that the contest winners were trying to contact me. He gave me the number and I called them. From there, everything just pretty much fell in place. I contacted them and they gave me information, they told me I did win, and so they needed information to arrange the flight and to arrange the hotels and they told me where I was going, that I would be going to Phoenix, Arizona, which was such a beautiful place, amazing. I’d never been there before. So from there it went, I guess you could say, accordingly!

CM: Did you just go to Phoenix recently?

BW: Yes, I went to Phoenix in October and I stayed for four days and it was the most beautiful place you would want to visit, I’m like “Wow, I could live here!” And the people were some of the most kindest, generous, heart-warming, loving people you could want to meet. It was so beautiful, it was fantastic.

CM: How long have you worked at Cathey Dining Commons?

BW: Well, I originally started in Pierce. Pierce used to be on 55th and University. Now, Pierce is torn down now, but it was one of the most loving, family-oriented dining rooms. You would just want to come in and everybody felt like family because they were all family, that’s what we considered our family, and it was just a wonderful place. So, Pierce closed and I came over here in 2013. I loved being at Pierce but then I love people wherever I go, so this is—it’s huge, but it’s very nice, it’s very nice, and I enjoy being here.

CM: What’s the best thing about working at the University dining halls? What do you enjoy about it?

BW: I enjoy everything. I enjoy the people, everything. It’s just overall a great, wonderful dining experience. You might have felt a little bit more at home in Pierce. It was just whatever you needed, whatever we could get you—no problem. And this, it’s a little large, but it’s good. So everything, everything.

CM: What is the strangest thing you’ve seen happen in a dining hall in your years here? Any fun anecdotes?

BW: Let’s see, nothing really strange. People do always have a really great sense of humor, so we get to laugh, we get the joy of laughter. I guess just the joy of seeing people everyday. But nothing really strange, but like I said, people really have a great sense of humor, so we get to laugh, the joy of laughter.

CM: Around campus you are known for being so cheerful all the time—how do you maintain such a positive attitude? What’s your motto?

BW: There’s no motto—life itself is amazing. There’s no perfect life, but life is amazingly beautiful and just appreciating every day, not taking nothing for granted, appreciating people, learning how to be kind to people. So no motto, just gratefulness, thankfulness, and just helping me to be more appreciative. So, I guess I just love people and I guess it’s just being grateful and thankful.

CM: A lot of people right now are really stressed because finals are coming up. So, if you had a message to give the students who are freaking out, what would you tell them?

BW: Well, I always usually say, ‘Now, when you’re in grammar school, you’re dreaming of getting to high school.’ I would say most of us always have a dream. So that same dream, as a young boy or young girl, that you wanted to grow up to be—maybe a teacher, an astronaut, a doctor—[you have] that same dream till you graduate from grammar school to high school, and here you’re in college. So you’re right here; you’re living that dream! So you’ve come all the way from there, and you’re right here. So just taking that look around and seeing that there’s no barriers, nothing blocks you but you, and that same dream, that same aspiration, [is] just continuing, just being encouraged, and just knowing that you can make it from there—there’s nothing really to stop you. You can always make it. And, I guess at times you just might need to, you just have to encourage your own self. So just encouraging yourself and be willing to—you have good days, you have bad days—but regardless, just be willing to just keep smiling. Regardless of whatever, you’re going to make it. You’re always going to make it. And just taking the steps to press forward and to do just that—to keep going, to make it.