A student who needed help finding a career path is crediting the assistant director of dining operations at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with providing just the right support.
Brian Warzynski, the person who stepped up to help, was recently awarded the Rising Star Award for New Professionals from the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Region V.
One of his nominators was former Reeve Union employee Nina Loomis, who said Warzynski became aware of her passion for sustainability when she worked at a service desk at Reeve Union. He welcomed her to a job in the Harvest Room in Reeve Union that matched everything she was looking for in her professional development.
Loomis explained that she had not found the right fit with a chosen major and was about to switch for the fifth time. Loomis went from “undecided” in the College of Business to becoming an environmental studies major in the College of Letters and Science.
“A major that may be thought of as untraditional and less practical had grabbed my attention,” Loomis said, adding that she gained urban farmer training while working in the Harvest Room with its numerous hydroponics growing units at Reeve Memorial Union.
The local source of fresh food is part of the University’s sustainability mission. Warzynski taught Loomis to monitor water quality, manage plant growth and harvest lettuce and various culinary herbs for the campus catering program. Hundreds of pounds of food were harvested every week and she was trained on some of the newest models.
The alumna notes that today she is the urban farm manager of a nonprofit in Manitowoc County with more than double the number of Fork Farms hydroponic units than she worked with in the UW Oshkosh Harvest Room. The lettuce harvested serves hundreds of people experiencing food insecurity.
“I would not have met this achievement if (Warzynski) had not introduced me to the Harvest Room and encouraged me to learn more about hydroponics,” Loomis said.
Going the extra mile
Dylan Bram, program adviser for Reeve Union Board, Late Night Programming and Titan Underground events, said Warzynski has a creative mind and is able to come up with amazing food selections for themed events and stay within a budget.
“Brian has developed a place where students learn how to run a small-scale restaurant, customer service skills and health code policies, and it’s a place where they want to work,” Bram said.
He added that Warzynski listens to students, gives them feedback and coaches them within the restaurant and with life—helping them develop into good people with lifelong skills and a strong work ethic.
Warzynski said the award was something that he figured out about halfway through a banquet he was attending with other UWO leaders.
“I feel honored about winning the award,” he said. “It confirms the hard work and it makes you want to do even better.”
He credited all of the staff in Reeve with making “the magic happen” and coming through on some of the tougher ideas he’s come up with.
“Since coming to this campus, my vision and goal is ‘how can I make it better for the students? They are the ones who employ me and I don’t want to let them down,” he said. “In my mind I want to be a leader in the dining program so that students from our campus tell others how great it is to be here, how much we care for them and build a culture of family and belonging.”
Warzynski said his student employees are like family and he wants to get to know them and hear about their great moments in school and the not-so-great moments. He works to provide building blocks and opportunities to grow—even if it means learning from mistakes.
“These are challenging times we live in and I want to give them all of the tools to succeed when they leave here,” Warzynski said.