Susan van Gigch takes pride in making sure the more than 12,500 students who have dining plans through the University of Georgia Dining Services enjoy a good meal.
As the associate director of operation support, she makes sure that everything runs smoothly for both students and staff members in the 27 retail locations and five dining commons across UGA’s campus.
“I think of myself as the behind-the-scenes person who helps the units provide exceptional service to our students,” van Gigch said.
Her job includes a range of diverse responsibilities. She oversees each individual unit to ensure the pipeline is running smoothly for units to purchase and receive goods, which includes the purchasing of food, equipment and supplies. She also has oversight on special construction or renovation projects.
“It’s exciting and challenging every day,” she said. “No two days are the same. It makes it fun.”
Van Gigch is originally from Michigan, but she knew after graduating from college that she wanted to move South for better weather. Her husband, Nick, an alumnus of UGA, didn’t want to leave Athens. The couple built their own home, where they live with their two dogs, Ellie, a 4-year-old pointer mix, and Izzy, a 7-year-old German shorthair pointer. The homebuilding project started van Gigch’s education about construction, and the experience helped her understand the special projects she works on at UGA.
One of the special projects van Gigch is most proud of is the Tate Student Center renovations. Three years ago, the Chick-fil-A was renovated, and The Niche Pizza Co. and Panda Express locations were added. The area where The Niche Pizza Co. is located used to be van Gigch’s office, but the space is better used as a pizza concept for students than an office, she said.
As an undergraduate, van Gigch wanted to go into travel and tourism, but Ferris State University didn’t offer that degree. She started out in hospitality management with the intention to transfer to a new school. But after she got an internship in restaurant management, which she loved, she decided to stay.
After graduation, she worked in Gwinnett County at a corporate restaurant and commuted every day from Athens. She wanted to find a job closer to home. On the day she visited UGA, the staff was preparing for a special event.
“I fell in love with what they were doing,” she said. “It was exciting to see the amount of detail and care that went into the special event.”
One of the challenges of her job is meeting the needs of students and staff. But she loves working with students and staff members. Van Gigch manages a team of 24 staff members, who oversee everything from safety and compliance to cash register management to warehouse personnel.
Early in December, van Gigch celebrated her 22nd work anniversary at UGA.
“Dining Services is just a wonderful place to work,” she said. “Twenty-two years have flown by.”