CELOP and BU Dining Partner on English Language Program for Dining Services Staff

in Global Matters
March 8th, 2024

Recently dozens of BU Dining employees completed an English language program designed and taught by the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP)’s Gina Giamei. The program – English for Dining Services – was offered to BU Dining employees who work in various functions across BU’s Dining Halls. Dining services staff members who expressed an interest in participating and were approved by their managers took part in the inaugural program in spring 2023 for six weeks.

The program received high marks from both employees who participated and their managers. Given the all-around success of the first program, Giamei developed and taught two twelve-week classes in fall 2023, and both sessions have been a win-win for CELOP and BU Dining employees.

“This is looked at as a success by Aramark (and I feel confident stating) also by BU,” says Mark Camus, Senior Human Resources Manager at Aramark. “It has also been a win with CELOP staff as well as our clients Kris Klinger and Paul Riel of BU Auxiliary Services.”

Camus, who describes himself as a big supporter of this kind of initiative and has previously instituted ESL classes at other organizations, adds that employee feedback has been strongly positive overall. “Notably, for the pre [and] post assessment testing done for the recently completed fall 2023 class, there were visible improvements for almost all participants,” he says.

“The program is geared towards staff who work in dining services and gives them the vocabulary and linguistic expressions to communicate effectively in the workplace,” says Maria Arruda, Managing Director of CELOP. “We are thrilled to partner with Aramark on this important initiative and training for their employees. Students not only demonstrated that they have made progress, but also the program helps advance Aramark’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic priority.”

CELOP Senior Lecturer Gina Giamei shadowed employees working in the dining halls and kitchens while building the curriculum to ensure it would be relevant to their needs. The focus is on making it easier for employees to do their jobs and communicate while working.

“I talked to managers and looked at the workspaces,” says Giamei. “I tried to stay open to what the student needs are and what they want to know. The students have come from many different countries and backgrounds…Dominican Republic, Haiti, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru, China, Hong Kong, and Myanmar.”

Giamei, who specializes in working with beginners and has been teaching for 30 years, also led lessons on following instructions and how to read a recipe. Being someone who learned to speak Japanese fluently, Giamei is empathetic to the challenges of learning how to speak or develop fluency in a new language.

“I have a lot of empathy for my students because when I first moved to Japan in 1993 I knew very little about the language,” Giamei recalls. “It was hard. The first year was very difficult and we didn’t have all of the technology that we have now. I had my phrase book that I carried everywhere. I found translating between English and Japanese to be difficult… It took a long time to understand the meaning of what I translated, and so I can relate to the struggle.”

Robert Luther, Food Services Manager at Marciano Commons, says he sees the benefits of the program and that the individuals working on his team feel more at ease and comfortable approaching him and speaking. He adds that Giamei has been instrumental in helping Aramark employees feel comfortable.

Mark Yates, Food Services Manager at Warren Towers, echoes Luther’s sentiments. “It’s been nothing but positive,” he says. “They are excited to learn and feel proud about what they have accomplished. I am so happy to see this.”

Due to strong interest and demonstrated progress shown by the employees who participated, Aramark is now offering additional classes to employees during the current spring 2024 semester. The spring 2024 classes include a new Digital Literacy component.

“I am so happy with this class…I enjoy it,” says participant Witney Chow. “Gina is a great teacher.”

Giamei says she is thrilled with her students’ success. “I always let my students know I’m there to help and that’s what I want to do – just help them.”