Expanding Community at Olin

Here at Olin, we love the word “community”. We find importance in talking about and holding “community events”, open to ostensibly everyone who plays a part in this school. Yet in our time here, we’ve also been struck by the people we don’t remember when we say “community”. The dining hall workers who come here early in the morning and leave late at night, during holidays, snowstorms, and more, to make sure we have food. The facilities workers who clean our floors and maintain our buildings in the middle of the night, to maintain the illusion that the buildings magically keep themselves clean. These people arguably work some of the hardest on campus and inarguably have been here for the longest, yet we don’t invite them into our version of community.

We wanted to change that, in our own small way. A few weeks ago, Mari spoke with three dining hall workers – Joselyn, Catalina, and Ana. What follows is a transcript of the conversation, edited for conciseness, where they talk about their lives and perceptions of students. It doesn’t represent everyone, but it’s a start, one that we hope others will follow. Enjoy reading!

The conversation below has been translated from Spanish to English.

Mari: Where are you all from?

Joselyn: We’re Dominican, all of us.

Mari: How long have you been working here?

Joselyn: I’ve been here 15 years.

Catalina: I’ve been here 6 years.

Ana: I’ve been here almost two, yeah two.

Mari: And how did you all end up working here?

Joselyn: Well someone who worked here brought me on, and they brought me on because they needed people, and I liked it. I do my work, and I’ve stayed here – I’ve stayed here all these years.

Catalina: I was also brought on by someone who works here, and its the first time I’ve worked since I got here [to the US, Boston], and since, I haven’t worked anywhere else, I like it, and I’ll be here until I don’t want to anymore. [laughter]

Ana: Well she [Catalina] brought me here [laughter], its my first job, I got here, I liked it, and here we are.

Mari: Do you have your families here?

Joselyn: Yes, my mom is here, my sisters, I have two sisters here, my daughter, and my grandson, too.

Catalina: I have my son here, my husband, and a lot of my family. My son works here, too.

Mari: Oh! Who is he?

Catalina: Luis – 

Joselyn: The cashier, the cashier.

Mari: Ohhh. James and his mom both work here too, right?

Joselyn: Yes, and his aunt, too. [laughter] We’re all family.

Catalina: Yes, we’re all family.

Joselyn: And you, Ana?

Ana: I have my kids here, my husband, and my sister.

Mari: Have your kids come to see where you work? Well, the ones who don’t work here? 


Joselyn: No, my daughter has never been here.

Ana: My kids have come, but only to drop me off.

Mari: How do you get to work? Are you dropped off? Do you get a ride?

Ana: A ride, yeah.

Joselyn: Well, I spend a lot of time, almost all these years I have gotten rides, but now I have learned to drive. And I have a car now, thank god.

Catalina: When I started, I got a ride, then my son got me, but now my son is somewhere else and now he only comes in the evening. In the morning I get a ride, but at night he picks me up.

Joselyn: And you guys leave together?

Catalina: Yeah.

Mari: I don’t know how to drive either, it scares me.

Catalina: I’m also scared.

Joselyn: I was also really scared, but then one day I said, “No, I have to drive, because in this country” – besides, we live far.

Mari: Where do you live?

Joselyn: We live in Dorchester. It is a bit uncomfortable to come in public transit, and I said, “No, I have to drive.” And I drove. And I’ve told them, but they don’t- [laughter] – and I lost my fear.

Catalina: I had my driving permit before her, but I’m really scared.

Mari: How is the work culture here? I see that you guys seem like really good friends.

Joselyn: We get along well because we’re like family. Everyone here gets along well. I’m not going to tell you it’s perfect all the time because we’re human, but sometimes…

Mari: Yeah, yeah.

Joselyn: But we always get along, we always resolve, besides, we love our jobs, and we are .

like family because we are together more than we are with our actual families. We spend more time together, so we are family.

Mari: Well that’s good that you guys get along well.

Catalina: We try to get along because we practically live here, like some might say.

Mari: What hours do you work?

Joselyn: I work from 6:30 AM to 3 in the afternoon, Monday to Friday, but now since the cashier, Johnny Chu, is sick, I’ve been covering these last few Saturdays until he can return.

Catalina: I work from 12 noon to 8 at night. I work from Tuesday to Saturday.

Ana: Me too.


Catalina: I have to talk for Ana.

Mari: I understand, I am also timid. Well, what do you know about the school? About Olin?

Joselyn: Well, I think that I know everything, because I know everything about what happens around here.


Joselyn: Yes because I have been in all that, because I help when you guys have events.

Mari: Oh yes, yes.

Joselyn: I see that you guys do a lot of projects. A lot of nice things. What I had never seen that I saw last week was that, in the library, that you guys had like a room for sewing.

Mari: Yeah, yeah.

Joselyn: On Saturday I noticed that.

Catalina: I didn’t know that.

[Mari describes different parts of Olin]

Joselyn: Sure. I didn’t know that either. I thought that you guys studied here and that was it. I didn’t know you had to get off campus for projects.

Mari: It’s fun, and well, you wouldn’t see it at other schools.

Catalina: [laughing] Only here.

Joselyn: No but its good because that way you guys clear your minds.

Catalina: you have your minds focused on what you have to do, and you have fun, too.

Mari: And since Olin is so small, and we’ve all gone through first year courses, well we know  that, well, that’s why they’re doing these things. Are there students with which you talk regularly?

Joselyn: Oh yeah. I talk to a lot of people. Im very talkative.

Mari: [teasing] I’m noticing!

 Catalina: I talk to people who speak Spanish, because I don’t know English. So, there are a lot of people I say hello to, but with those who speak Spanish, i talk to a little more.

Joselyn: Sometimes students are going through problems, and they come here and their faces look upset, but we always have smiles on our faces, and we always try to make you all feel better.

Mari: That’s very beautiful.

Catalina: Yes.

Mari: When I got here, I missed — In Los Angeles everyone speaks Spanish, and I always had places – like if I wanted tacos. And well here, its been more difficult to find a Latino community. 

Joselyn: There is community, but its a little further way. LIke East Boston. There’s this really good restaurant, it’s mexican, but honestly they have all kinds of food, and everyone speaks spanish – La Hacienda, it’s called. They have great food.

Mari: –La Hacienda.

Joselyn: But here [in the dining hall] you can speak Spanish with everyone, because we all speak Spanish here.

Mari: Would you want to talk more with students? Or talk to more students? Get to know them more?

Joselyn: Well I talk to everyone. Sometimes they [Catalina & Ana] are more shy, but at the very least “How are you? How was your day? Have a good day” At least that. Yeah, I’m always talking to everyone. Well, I had never talked to you, but –

Ana: For me, sometimes I think that they won’t understand me, you know. So maybe that’s why I don’t talk more.

Joselyn: No yeah.

Mari: Sometimes there are tables, like – they send out an email “we’re going to host a language table where we can speak different languages” and there are a lot of people who, since they learned Spanish in high school, want to talk to people in Spanish. It would be nice –

Catalina: Yes!

Joselyn: When someone like that comes through, they say – well I’ve been here so many years, imagine, there have been so many people who have come through, but there was this one young man – he was chinese, but he knew a lot of languages – and he’d say, “I want to talk to you to practice” but he knew so much Spanish, he knew so many languages. He always talked to me. So, sometimes when I meet people like that I say “You can speak Spanish here, we all speak Spanish” She [Ana] is so shy. She doesn’t like talking to anyone. When she got here, she didn’t speak at all.

Mari: We’re working on it.

Ana: Yeah, I’m timid, too. I don’t talk a lot.  Now [I’m talking]  because I’m here with them, who are part of my family.

Joselyn: Yeah.

Ana: But yeah, I’m also timid.

Mari: Well our school is so small, and well, we know our professors and staff very well, but not you.

Joselyn: And us who you should know more!

Mari: Yes, yes!

Joselyn: Look, when students form Babson come, they don’t like to swipe, and I have to tell them. And they ask me “How do you know that we’re from Babson?” and I tell them “Because I know everyone here!”

Catalina: Of course, we know all the kids here.

Joselyn: They ask themselves a lot “How do they know that I’m from Babson” and theres a lot of students, but I know everyone. “Everyone?” Yes, Everyone. I know who’s from here, and who isn’t. 

Mari: There’s been more [Babson students] this year, right?

Joselyn: Yes, yes. But before, before, so many students would come. At night, I used to work nights, we would have up to 150 Babson students. 

Mari: Wow.

Joselyn: And that was –

Mari: Tough?

Joselyn: It was very tough.

Catalina: There are night that many many many students come.

Joselyn: For example, Tuesdays –

Catalina: Tuesdays, the tacos –

Joselyn: They like the menu. When they like the menu [they come]. Besides, they say that our food is better than there. They say that, I don’t know.

Mari: I’ve never gone. I’m scared to. Better if I just stay here.


Mari: Well, it’s been very nice talking to you. Thank you for giving me your time.

Joselyn: It’s been a pleasure. Now you know that whenever you or your friend want to speak spanish, we are at your service.

Mari: Thank you!

Catalina: It’s been a pleasure talking to you, nice to meet you.

Mari: Likewise!

Catalina: thank you for the conversation, have a nice day!

Mari: You too, thank you!

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