Meet Beth Connell, Director of Ancillary Services at Sheridan. She’s the person responsible for overseeing Sheridan’s cafeterias and food services, bookstores, print shop, mailroom, switchboard, conference services, events, OneCard, residence and shuttle bus. Beth’s approach to managing this hectic and diverse load is to make the ordinary more extraordinary by staying in tune with the needs of our students.
“The first big project I was assigned, back in 2011 when I was the Executive Assistant in Finance and Administration, was to ‘figure out what’s going on with the food and fix it’,” she recalls. After a few months of meetings with stakeholder groups and vendors, market research, and planning, the solution that emerged involved the first two major construction projects to be done at the Davis and Trafalgar campus cafeterias since they were built.
New vendors and franchisees, seating, and flooring were introduced, timed with the first day of class in the fall. “The night before, at 10 p.m. on Labour Day, I remember driving to each campus to make sure the cafeterias looked just right. You can’t control construction and we were also renovating during a system-wide strike, which added another layer of complexity.” The cafeterias opened to students’ delight and the accomplishment remains a highlight of her Sheridan career.
“I’ve never been one to shy away from going after something that I know I can do. That’s been the catalyst for my career.” – Beth Connell
When a new position, to manage Sheridan’s Ancillary Services was created and posted a few years later, Beth was quick to apply and succeeded in getting the role. “I’ve never been one to shy away from going after something that I know I can do. That’s been the catalyst for my career. I have never doubted my ability and I always aim to outlast or outperform the naysayers.”
This mantra has served her well in both her work and her studies. She progressed through a number of portfolios at Sheridan such as Enrolment Management, Academics and Marketing in her earliest days, completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Management while working full time, and is now pursuing a Masters of Leadership degree at the University of Guelph, on a part time basis.
That same energy and passion for learning and improving is something she applies to every aspect of her portfolio. “I was once a student here. I know all about the importance of price point. At the same time, I have to work within the limits of relying on third-party providers. There’s only so much you can do, but I constantly try to be the voice of students and staff and try to make people as happy as possible.”
Another challenge stems from recognizing the differences in services required for Brampton, Mississauga and Oakville. “Sometimes it means I have to do my job three times,” she laughs. “You have to account for difference in culture, taste and various constraints.” One example she points to is Subway. “I know folks would love one at Davis, like at Trafalgar, but our campus is too close to a franchise that’s already established in that community.” Another example is vending machines. “Mississauga has a heavy bent on sustainability. That forces us to re-examine if we should have vending machines that sell soft drinks in plastic bottles.”
“I never want things to feel stagnant or stale,” she adds. “That means I’m not afraid to be a first mover – but only if we’re careful not to step too far away from the core and risk missing the mark.”
Take the Sheridan OneCard. “Every year I challenge the team to make it more than it was the year before.” Far from serving as an official ID or access card for printing services, the card can now be used by students to pay for their immunizations at the Health Centre, paying for laundry in residence, and increasingly, it can be used to purchase – at a discount – food services at local establishments off campus.
“Ancillary Services is like the oil that’s needed to keep the engine going in a car…I guess my satisfaction is knowing that our engine is running well.” – Beth Connell
That same drive for continuous improvement is what spurred Beth’s transformation of Sheridan’s annual Welcome Back, kick-off event which is held each fall for all Sheridan employees. “The first year I had this portfolio, the event was coming up and I remember thinking that I wanted it to feel really special. I hate runny eggs. This is the one time we get to celebrate all the people who put in so much hard work to make this place tick. They’re the real unsung heroes and they deserve to feel special.”
With much determination and perseverance, she rallied the institutional will and resources to create an event that delivered. “Seeing people’s eyes light up when they walked in the room, listening to them talk about the food and décor, and hearing that they recognized that what we did was all for them . . . it was like the icing on the cake.”
Perhaps the best feeling of all for Beth, however, is knowing that in some small way, she has made someone’s day better. “Ancillary Services is like the oil that’s needed to keep the engine going in a car. Everyone knows the oil is there and knows when the car runs well. But the second the oil runs out, the engine stops. I guess my satisfaction is knowing that our engine is running well.”
Pictured at top of page: Beth Connell, Director of Ancillary Services at Sheridan. Photo by Sheridan Technologist Owen Colborne.
Written by: Christine Szustaczek, Director of Communications and External Relations at Sheridan.