"Enjoy Your Lunch"

To most who pass through Bethel's Monson Dining Center, Geetha Peters is a friendly and familiar face. In recognition of her hospitality, she was named the Sodexo Experience Winner for February 2019.

By Claire Swenson ’19

September 09, 2019 | 11:15 a.m.

Peters, Gibson, and Hamersma

Geetha Peters celebrating her Sodexo Experience Award with executive chef Jeff Gibson and operations manager Michele Hamersma.

Whether you are a student who eats in the Monson Dining Center every day or you are a highschooler on a campus tour, being met by Geetha Peters is a joy. Her sweet smile and bubbly “Enjoy your lunch!” sticks in the mind of everyone she greets as a perfect representation of what Bethel is about: hospitality and Christ-like joy.

Peters has an undeniable passion for students. From starting a school at age 21 in India to working as a cashier for Sodexo at Bethel, she finds joy in making students feel welcome and at home. 

She and her daughter, Lian, moved from India to Minnesota in 2003 to be with husband, Vincent, assistant provost for international and off-campus programs. After working various jobs, including seven years of employment at a nursing home, Peters felt a longing to work with students again. After a meeting with Bob Schuchardt, general manager for Sodexo at Bethel, she accepted the position of cashier in 2014. 

This year marks five years with Bethel and five years making a difference in the lives of college students.

“It is so important to have a positive, pleasant person to greet our guests,”  said the official Sodexo news release, naming Peters as the February 2019 Sodexo Experience Winner. “Geetha goes beyond that by assisting new customers in finding whom and what they need. She gets to know people by name and is highly respected.”

At a staff meeting, Peters was surprised to learn that she was given the national award. “Our team here at Sodexo Bethel focuses on customer relationships and first impressions so that we can genuinely care for our students. Geetha has taken this to heart and makes a significant effort to learn most of the students’ names and most importantly connecting with them personally and sharing their joys and struggles of life at Bethel and their family life at home,” says Schuchardt, who presented Peters with the award. 

Geetha Peters and Jeff Gibson

Geetha Peters and executive chef Jeff Gibson.

Not only has Peters been recognized by Sodexo, she has been honored by many students. Last year, she was chosen by the graduating class to participate in their senior celebration. “When I got home, I talked to my daughter and I cried. There are lots of people working here, taking classes, but they chose my name,” Peters says. “When I was standing on the stage, my eyes had tears. I didn’t cry, but I told everyone ‘Congratulations, God bless you.’”

She recalls being particularly touched by the encouragement she received on Sodexo’s Employee Appreciation Day. Walking into work one day last year, she was surprised to see a board that proudly said We love Geetha. “I never heard that in my family,” she remarked. “In the Indian culture, they care in different ways, but the word they say here, ‘We love you,’ that’s really amazing.”

It’s in the little moments that Peters builds relationships. “Whenever I get one minute, I am talking with students,” she says. Whether it’s about exams, the weekend, or families, Peters knows the importance of investing in students and showing them that she cares. “I give a little positive energy,” she says. “I pray for them everyday. Whenever I am praying, I am always thinking of all the students.”

If you watch Peters swipe hundreds of students into the Dining Center, it seems she scarcely fails to recognize a face. She credits this in part to her Facebook community, getting to see students’ faces and names online, but also to the gifts God has given her. “[Knowing names is] a blessing for me, too,” Peters says. “I think God gave me the gift to remember.”

Peters is often praised for her consistently positive attitude, yet she acknowledges that it’s not always easy. Even with personal struggles, she finds a way to be joyful. “Whatever pressure or problem in my personal [life], I leave it at home. Once I get on the campus, I forget everything. I am at work, so now, I am a cashier,” Peters says. 

I never cry for the problem. The problem came and we cannot send the problem back, so we have to face it.

— Geetha Peters

Through her faith in God, Peters has learned how to weather the storms that are thrown at her with joy, “Whatever happens, happens for a reason, so just go through it. Pray first, then go through it with God. I am always saying, ‘With God, you can make everything positive.’”

Though she studied English in India, working at Bethel was one of Peters’ first experiences having to consistently speak with people and handle American cash. “It was really challenging, handling the cash and talking to the people,” she says. Yet, she didn’t let that deter her from interacting. Peters pushed herself in her new environment to exercise her English, making conversation with the people who came through her line. Now, she is known for chatting with everyone and helps out in the Sodexo office, counting cash from the registers.

“Geetha is the embodiment of community at Bethel!” Megan Inwards ’20 says. “She’s always there, and she’s always smiling. She reminds me why being friendly is important.”

“We are honored to have Geetha as a part of our team who serves and has compassion for our students,” Schuchardt says.

Peters is eager to continue working at Bethel and growing her relationships with the staff and students. “[Summer is] a three-month break! It’s a little hard for me. I've missed them,” she says. “I want to work for the students.”

Explore Dining at Bethel.

Through partnership with Sodexo, Dining Services at Bethel are some of the top in the country. Whether you see Geetha at the Monson Dining Center, eat at the 3900 Grill, or grab a coffee at the Royal Grounds, you will always find something tasty. 

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