By: Florinda Gjypi | February 20, 2023
UAlbany students call her many nicknames, but the most common one that they refer to her as, is “the dining hall angel,”: Who is Wisdom Grant-Ogden, the lady who has affected the lives of so many students with nothing but her positive attitude?
Wisdom Grant-Ogden in the Campus Center
Photo Credit: Florinda Gjypi / The ASP
A registrar for the UAlbany Dining Services, Wisdom started this position five years ago and considers her job as something that she is very passionate about, as it gives her the opportunity to work closely with college students.
Originally from Trinidad, Wisdom came to the United States with her family 25 years ago. She is the mother of three children: two young adults and a teenager. Prior to her current position, she worked as a caretaker at a hospital.
“I worked there for a long time but for some reason, I always felt like it wasn’t the right place for me, it really wasn’t my passion. One day I was browsing my computer, I saw the University’s post about this job, and I told myself that I should give it a try. I was interviewed, got the position, and it has been the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Grant-Ogden said.
New beginnings are not always easy, especially when one starts working in a whole new work environment. But to Wisdom, the beginning not only was easy, but she felt like she had finally fallen into place as she was now getting to know so many new people on a daily basis, getting and sharing positive energy.
“I felt very welcomed, and communicating with students every day made me feel their positive energy and made me like my job even more. Things started to flow, the interactions became more natural, and all was going very well, until Covid-19 happened, which had us all isolated for a good amount of time and I missed that routine, I missed the students very much,” Grant-Ogden said.
During Covid-19 with classes being held remotely, the UAlbany Dining Services were closed and only later in the pandemic when students started returning to campus, they saw limited hours transitioning to fully in-person in the Fall 2021 semester. That was also when many current UAlbany students got to meet Wisdom for the first time.
“My first encounter with Wisdom was at the Indigenous Dining Hall after it opened for the first time since Covid-19. What makes her so special is her smile. Whenever she greeted me, she never failed to ask me how my day was going. My friends and I became so comfortable around her that we began to refer to her as 'Grandma' because she really made us feel at home,” Brad Igweike said, a junior student-athlete majoring in Cybersecurity.
To Wisdom, working with students is not just a job, but it’s an opportunity to be nice, and to make them feel seen and cared for.
“It really affects the students you know, asking them ‘How was your day?’ ‘How is school?’ ‘How are you dealing with your studies?’ giving them a word of encouragement, telling them that although every day will not be the same, they will be able to face and overcome their everyday challenges,” Grant-Ogden said.
“Wisdom’s comforting and positive energy makes it so easy for young adults who are transitioning into a more independent part of their life. Now that I live off-campus I really do miss the way Wisdom shines bright and bleeds happiness. And because that energy of her is so consistent, I cannot imagine that any UAlbany student has had a bad experience with her. She truly deserves the world,” Igweike said.
Although for Wisdom it’s nearly impossible to remember every student that she greets daily, the students definitely remember her and the impact that she makes on their days.
Brendan Carr, a junior majoring in English, says that UAlbany is a better place just because of her kindness.
“She is always ready to make you feel welcome with a compliment that will brighten your day. While many students may not know her name, everyone knows the kind hearted and compassionate woman from the Indigenous Dining Hall who can brighten their day with a smile,” said Carr.
Wisdom recalls all her time that she has been working at UAlbany as a great experience, however, there are also times when she remembers having gone through challenging situations. One of these situations that she remembers clearly is when a UAlbany student reported her to her supervisor, and it was her characteristic of calm and positive attitude that resolved the situation, and the student felt acknowledged and satisfied.
“Once a young lady said my service wasn’t nice to her and she reported me to my supervisor. I was sad that she felt that particular way, so when my supervisor asked her to explain how, it turned out that she was completely misunderstood. I still apologized and offered her a free meal because I wanted her to feel acknowledged for her concern but most of all because I wanted her to feel better. I wanted her to come to get food again and feel welcomed but mostly to realize that there isn’t anything that communication can’t resolve,” Grant-Ogden said .
Students talk to Wisdom, trust her, and see her as their go-to person for advice and like a parental figure because they feel like she understands them.
“I once remember this parent drove all the way from upstate to come and thank me for being that nice to her daughter. It felt amazing,” Grant-Ogden said .
Her communication and interaction with students that goes beyond the consumer-service norms, combined with her parental aura and care, make students not only feel welcomed but also a little closer to home, which to some of them might be located very far.
Lovro Horvat, an international student-athlete from Croatia, met Wisdom in his first semester of freshman year at the Indigenous Dining Hall and says that every student he knows, especially international, loves Wisdom.
“As soon as I met her, she stood out from other people. She really seemed to care about us, and as an international student, that was very nice,” Horvat said.
A sophomore studying Business Administration, currently playing for the UAlbany Men’s Soccer team, Horvat says that he is grateful that a person like that is part of the college that he attends, as it makes UAlbany a better place to be in and it makes it feel like home.
The kind of support and encouragement that she gives, is what according to Horvat means a lot in a student’s life, and it gives everyone the feeling of having known Wisdom for a long time.
An advice that Wisdom has for every person of her generation, is that when facing a young college student, to try and put themselves in the student’s shoes, because getting through college is not easy at all.
“Sometimes people of my generation forget how challenging it is to be young and how growth comes with stages. They will grow up one day but for now, at their age, they deserve all the kindness and understanding that we can give to them. We shouldn’t be talking to them with an attitude. I’m not perfect, no one is, but we need to be role models, better role models for them,” Grant-Ogden said.