Eleven women in the department have worked at Texas Tech for a combined 268 years.
In recognition of Women's History Month, Texas Tech University is highlighting the contributions of some of its longest-serving staff members throughout March. Their efforts, many of which go on behind the scenes and outside the spotlight, nevertheless keep the university running day to day.
A few departments across the Texas Tech campus can boast an impressive number of longstanding staff members, but in Hospitality Services, there must be something in the water.
They may not find that funny – after all, Hospitality Services takes pride in what's in, and not in, what we eat and drink here. But in all seriousness, 11 women in that one department have worked at Texas Tech for a combined 268 years.
Among them are Gloria Torrez, a retail manager who's been here 27 years; Christy Norfleet, a chief analyst marking 24 years; Michelle Gonzales, a senior account processor, and Tosha Foster, manager for purchasing and contracting, at 21 years each. Their commitment to the Texas Tech community is just one of the reasons why these women are being highlighted for Women's History Month.
In what positions/roles have you served while at Texas Tech? Can you describe some
of the things you've done, both professionally and personally?
G.T.: I worked at Sneed Hall for several years. While that hall was being renovated, I worked at Chitwood Hall and Weymouth Hall. I worked there over the summer until the Sneed Sam's Place was open. I went back to Sneed for several years, and they offered me a position as a manager. I opened up the Sam's Place at the Student Union Building and the Sam's Place at Murray Hall.
T.F.: I've been assistant manager and manager in multiple Hospitality food service locations, departmental recycling, departmental purchasing, departmental payables, assistance with cash register and data warehouse systems.
C.N.: I actually started here as a student assistant; it was a college job – it was something that was going to last me a little bit of time. I started at Wall/Gates Hall, and I had the opportunity to move from a student assistant position in the operations into the finance area. I moved into catering for a number of years as a sales rep and an office manager, and now I'm back in the finance area as a chief analyst, so it's kind of come full circle. I have had the opportunity to serve on a few committees across campus. I was on the President's Gender Equity Council for four years. I also was a founding member of a now-dormant organization called the Women's Staff Network, because we felt it was important that women staff members were able to come together. There were some opportunities for faculty members to have that, and we saw that was a need in our community, so a few of us formed that committee. I also have been in Staff Senate, and then just sundry bits and pieces here on campus as well.
M.G.: I've been here since 1999. I started at Texas Tech, and I was at Transportation & Parking Services, in the enforcement part; I was the one who was giving the tickets. We were on our bikes, we were in little cars, all that good stuff. I was there doing enforcement for about three years, then I went over to the entry station for another maybe four or five. From there, I went over to the Student Union. When I went to the Student Union, there was a United States Post Office there, and I became the manager. We were contracted out by the post office – we weren't postal employees, of course; we were Texas Tech employees. The postal service closed certain little extension post offices, and we were one of them, in June or July 2010. In July 2010, I came to Hospitality Services. I was at Sam's Place West as the office manager and cashier manager. I was there for maybe five years, then I came over to administration with Hospitality. Now I work in the finance area, and I'm a senior account processor. I've worked behind the lines with Hospitality, I've worked as cashier, I've served, I've cooked. And I'm still here.
Did you ever imagine being at Texas Tech this long?
M.G.: I kind of did. It was a goal, and I'm going on 22 years this July, I believe.
C.N.: I absolutely did not. Fun story, I started in the dish room at the operation that I started in, and I actually called my mother the day after my first shift and said, 'I will not last a week here.' And it wasn't anything wrong, it was just different work than I was used to. So, no, I did not think this is where I was going to be, but the students I got to meet at that operation became some of my best friends, and that has just continued in my time with Texas Tech. This is where I find my friends, this is where I find my people and my home, so that's really what's kept me here as long as it has, even though that first day, I was absolutely not going to stay.
G.T.: I did not plan to work here for this long. My plans were to be here for five years, but five years came and went and 27 years later, I am still here.
T.F.: I never imagined being here this long. I think I'm like a lot of other people; I tried it out, enjoyed it and thought I'd stay for five years. At five years, I still enjoyed it and thought I'd stay for 10. Now it's been 21 years, and I can't imagine working anywhere else.
What's the secret to maintaining a career for so long? Any advice for someone who
is just starting their career at Texas Tech?
G.T.: I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the people I work with and the students. My best advice would be to like what you do and enjoy it!
C.N.: I would say persistence, not that I've met overt challenges. I'm an idea person and so, often, my ideas may fall on deaf ears. But if I find there's something that I really believe in, that I really am passionate about, then I persist in making sure those come to fruition. As such, I feel like there's always something to do – there's always something to accomplish. And so, persisting in those dreams or those ideas is something that's very important. My advice: Find your people. Texas Tech is a big campus, and there's a lot happening here. I feel like if you don't have your support group, it's going to be a bit harder for you to understand. There are so many places on this campus that do certain things, and so, starting out, it can be a big task to understand, who do I reach out to for this? Or how do I accomplish that? If you establish your people, if you get your group together who can help you along the way – call this person, talk to this person – it's going to make your journey so much easier.
M.G.: I guess honesty, just being consistent both professionally and personally. I'm an easygoing person, so I just make friends along the way. And remember, the sky's the limit. Keep reaching.
T.F.: I don't know that there is a big secret for career longevity, other than you have to love what you are doing. The thing I love the most about my job is that every day is different; there's no time to get bored or for monotony to set in.
What kinds of changes have you seen during your time at Texas Tech?
M.G.: Oh, gosh, thousands. I've been here going on 22 years, and there's always construction. It's always growing and changing, and I'm not afraid of changes. Everything has changed, from the aesthetic of the campus to the organizations that I've worked in, the jobs that I've had. It's a lot. But, don't be afraid of it.
T.F.: Two decades allows for a lot of changes. When I started, so much work was done on carbon copy forms by hand. Technology advancements have changed so much about our day-to-day activities. Food service on campus is barely recognizable compared to 20 years ago. We have gone from six all-you-care-to-eat cafeterias to retail operations and national franchises.
G.T.: I have watched the food service industry change. It changed from all-you-can-eat restaurants and small hole-in-the-wall snack bars to the Sam's Place convenience stores, franchise stores and the catering department.
C.N.: The campus as a whole has changed completely. You know, when I first got here, there were still classes in the old English building, which was a 1970s relic. But that's what we had, as far as the architecture and the change of things here, but we have also seen such a shift in the way that the campus functions. We've seen the way research has become such an important role in our university and proudly so because we can now tout ourselves as a top tier school. But, in addition to that, I've seen some changes in the way in which we approach our students and the way we try to accommodate in Hospitality with the changing times, as far as mobile roll-outs and different ways for people to order. You know, when I got here, the setup was a three-meal-a-day situation, and we have really tried to open that up. So the changes are fast, and I feel like as a university, we tend to roll with what the students need. I'm so very proud of that, because that's obviously who you're here for. As such, being able to bend to their needs is so important.
What have you enjoyed the most about being a Red Raider?
C.N.: The sense of community. I love my campus community, I love our departmental community. But there's also something to be said about when you're traveling across Texas or into New Mexico and you see someone else with a Double-T on the back of their car or sticker on their vehicle to say they're a supporter of Texas Tech or they're a member of the community, it just feels wonderful to know that we are far and wide, and we are Red Raiders everywhere.
M.G.: It's just being a Red Raider. I was born and raised here in Lubbock, down the street, about four or five blocks. You know, I've been in Lubbock all my life. Then I applied, got hired and I was in.
T.F.: The sense of family. We are Red Raider proud – we have pride in our work and pride in our students.
G.T.: My favorite thing is getting to know my employees and my customers. Over the years, I have seen students start their freshman year and work for me until they graduate. I still stay in contact with many students and employees who have worked for me in the past.
Do you have a favorite Texas Tech memory or tradition?
T.F.: My favorite tradition, hands down, is the Carol of Lights®.
M.G.: Football, baseball, the Lady Raiders, Christmas lights. As a child, we used to come on campus to watch the campus be lit and see the big Christmas tree. We still do that; I brought my kids, and now I bring my grandchildren. That's pretty neat.
G.T.: I am particularly proud of being able to watch my two daughters graduate from Texas Tech.
C.N.: So I wouldn't say it's a conventional memory or tradition, but one of my favorite things is when the students move back onto campus every fall. It's such a time of hope, it's a time to build your community, it's a time to to connect with others and say, "well I'm from here, and I'm so glad someone from my region of Texas has come to Texas Tech." Everyone just seems so full of life and ready to take on this new chapter in their lives. So, I always enjoy getting to meet the students and the parents who are about to entrust us with their kiddos. I just think it's such a magical time on campus.
Do you have a favorite campus eatery, and if so, why is that your favorite?
C.N.: That would be like picking my favorite child. There are so many memories and so many people wrapped up in each one of our locations that I have learned from or that I love, and I don't think there's any way that I could pare that down to just one location.
M.G.: I think they're all really good, but if I had to choose, I guess I would go with Sam's Place West in Wiggins because of the food choices we have there and the convenience.
T.F.: Since I work for Hospitality Services, I won't play favorites. They are all my favorite places to eat, and I eat in our locations daily!
G.T.: Sam's Place is definitely my favorite. I have worked here so long, I know how things are cooked, and I know what I'm eating.
What does being a Red Raider mean to you?
G.T.: Being a Red Raider is like a second home to me. I love meeting new people and enjoy celebrating the many traditions we have as Red Raiders.
C.N.: Community. It really is that sense of community, of being able to see everyone across the way. And I think there's so much pride in being a Red Raider, I think being able to call yourself an alumnus or to call yourself an employee is such a big connection. Everyone knows who you are, especially around this region. If you say, "I'm a Red Raider," they know exactly what that means.
M.G.: It means loyalty. I'm proud of the campus.
T.F.: Being a Red Raider to me is all about pride in where we started and pride in where we are going.
What are your plans for the future?
T.F.: I'm still taking it five years at a time, haha.
M.G.: Just to retire here, retire from Texas Tech.
G.T.: I plan to retire from Texas Tech.
C.N.: To keep on. I have a laundry list of things in Hospitality that I want to continue to see, to get accomplished. So, honestly, I don't see myself moving away from this area anytime soon. I'm constantly seeing things I'd like to change or work through, and nothing bad, that's just my nature to see things that maybe could be a little bit better or a little bit different. And maybe it could accommodate this person or that person in a different way. So, those things are still on my bucket list of things to do for Hospitality Services. I really just want to keep making improvements and changes, and I'm in a position to be able to to help with some of those things. I just hope to continue down this path.
Is there anything else you'd like to say?
M.G.: It's great to be a Red Raider. I love being part of every department that I've been in. It's always been a real pleasure, and it's always been very easygoing just to jump in and learn something new. So, I'm pretty proud of being here.
T.F.: My Hospitality family has celebrated the happiest times of my life with me, and they have supported me through some of the worst times of my life. I value each and every one of them, and I can only hope that I have given back some of what they have given me.
G.T.: I will always have fond memories of my time and service here, and, hopefully, one day my grandkids will become Red Raiders as well.