Junior hospitality management major Richelle Baker spent her summer at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming serving guests from all over the world as an assistant manager in one of the park’s delis.
Baker applied for a position through Xanterra, the United States’ largest park concessions management company. She began working at the end of May and was assigned to the deli of Canyon Village at Yellowstone National Park.
“I was the assistant manager of the deli, and a typical day consisted of me opening or closing the shop,” said Baker. “Between my co-workers and I, we served guests from all over the world. Our main items were sandwiches and ice cream.”
Classes and hands-on experience that Baker received at UF prior to this experience provided her with knowledge about running a business. Baker was also ServSafe® certified, meaning that she was certified to handle food safely coming in, which saved time during training. She was also promoted to assistant manager within the first week.
“Being able to understand and communicate with customers is probably the main challenge that we faced, due to the various languages spoken,” said Baker.
Baker learned to continue operating a business through power outages due to trees falling on power lines throughout the park. She also learned to successfully manage operations during peak business hours.
“I have never worked in such a high-volume establishment before. This experience allowed me to learn and expand my knowledge so that I can better myself in the future,” said Baker. “Almost every day, there were lines out the door from either tour buses or people staying in cabins who wanted to get cool and refreshing ice cream after a long day of exploring the park.”
Through this work experience, Baker is TiPS® certified, which is a program designed to empower participants to follow acceptable standards of practice for serving alcohol.
“After arriving, I was excited to be working in the deli for my first summer because of the welcoming atmosphere,” said Baker. “We got our rushes from tour buses, but overall, I enjoyed having a smaller staff that I could get to know really well.”
Baker went to Yellowstone by herself but made plenty of friends throughout the summer. The park is 2.2 million acres of land, and only two percent of it can be seen on a road. When staff members weren’t working, they were exploring the park.
“We all enjoyed working in the park, but we looked forward to our days off,” said Baker. “Exploring Yellowstone was, honestly, the most rewarding part of this job.”
Since this work experience was not an internship program, Baker is working with Phil Gunder, director of internships and cooperative education, to make this experience a no-credit co-op opportunity for UF students.
“I hiked over 100 miles and still had a list of things I wanted to see, but I will hopefully return next year to continue my adventure,” said Baker. “Our motto out there is ‘work hard to play hard,’ and because of that, I had an amazing summer.”
Written by Sarah Foltz