If you are a current student, faculty or staff member on the Lake Erie campus, there is one person who is sure to always greet you by name and ask you how your day is whenever she sees you—Nancy Covelli at Metz Dining Services. Incoming students quickly find out that by the time they have learned their first semester schedule at Lake Erie, Nancy has learned their name, where they are from, and, most likely, their favorite flavor of ice cream or how they prefer their coffee.
Nancy, as she is known around campus, is a Cleveland native with an educational and professional background in management and food service. "I chose my profession by trying different employment options,” she says. "I found my niche in food service.” She arrived at Lake Erie College after her niece, who was a student here at the time, told her there was an opening in food service.
"My niece often talked about LEC being a small college where you got to know everyone and could get involved,” Nancy said. "I applied for the position and was offered the job.”
Since then, she has made it her mission to give every student, whether current or prospective, the best possible experience while they are on campus. "I enjoy greeting every student and making them feel welcome,” Nancy says. "I like making sure they have a well-balanced and nutritious meal.”
However, Nancy provides more than just nutrition to the Lake Erie students—she often gives them advice and help when they need it, and makes it a point to watch after them. "I chose to have a profession working in higher education because it’s the perfect scenario to offer students’ ideas and opinions on different topics,” she says. "[They] don’t always take a parent’s point of view on some things. I try to listen to them and give [them] sound advice and be a positive influence. The students know they can trust me. This is a virtue I cherish.”
Her hard work has definitely paid off. Any student on the LEC campus will tell you that it is common courtesy to push your chair in and return all your dishes after you are finished with your meal—they learned it from Nancy. Two years ago, Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), now Moving Ahead Requires Knowledge (MARK), a business-oriented student organization, even created t-shirts featuring a silhouette of Nancy for a student venture. On the t-shirts, the silhouette had a speech-bubble floating above it, saying "Nancy says: Push in your chair!”, and they were immensely popular.
Nancy has many stories to tell of the Lake Erie students. Her favorite, however, is of the time she taught a lesson in appropriate behavior to some students who were playing table tennis on the lower floor of Holden—an area with a high ceiling right below the cafeteria.
"[Their] ball bounced up to where I was and I caught it,” she says. "To their surprise, I then squirted them with a water bottle and reminded them there is no swearing when the dining hall is in service. The students and I all had a very good laugh about it.”
"My favorite thing is the daily interaction with [the students],” Nancy says. "I like going to the sporting events to show them support and let them know that I am interested in what they do.”
The welcoming atmosphere in the dining hall that Nancy and the rest of the Metz staff have created has turned the LEC cafeteria, which provides food services not only to all residential students, but during the lunch hour also to many faculty and staff members, as well as many members of the Painesville and Mentor community, into a well-oiled machine. A well-oiled machine loaded with delicious food for every taste, that is.
There is one thing, however, that some students may not know about Nancy—she has a superpower that she often uses to help them. "I have a sixth sense. I know when they don’t feel well, are having a bad day or if something is really troubling them. I pay attention and observe.” And when she sees something is wrong, Nancy is always there for the students. She even has a bit of advice for any prospective students who are considering Lake Erie College.
"Come and experience a small, friendly community where you get to know everyone,” she says. "Get involved in the different opportunities and always be yourself. This is your family away from home. You will never go hungry; we will take care of you!”